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How to Stay Clean and Sober Over the Summer

sober friends on road trip during summerIf you’re in early recovery, you know that recovery is a journey, you have to keep working for it. That can seem intimidating around things and events where you’d normally party or drink and use drugs or alcohol. For many of us, summer is about vacations, time off from school and work, and getting to party. For some of us, that can be intensely triggering. In other cases, it can mean facing the prospect of a “boring” summer, without the usual outlets of getting to let go and party.

The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to have a great summer without drugs and alcohol. However, you might have to put in time to plan that summer. You might have to figure out what you can do, explore fun things to do, and look into ways you can feel social, get excitement, and enjoy being around others without drugs and alcohol. The closer you are to having been in recovery, the harder that might be. However, you can take steps that will ensure you stay clean and sober over the summer and hopefully enjoy yourself as well.

Mindset is Everything

It’s interesting how much of relapse is about mindset. For many of us, relapse is forwarded by finding ourselves reminiscing about the “good times” and getting to let loose, to party, to feel good. The minute you find yourself thinking in that way, it’s time to stop and reevaluate your mindset.

After all, it may be easier to let go of your inhibitions and go dancing or sing karaoke after a few drinks, but how much of it do you remember? How much of what is said is genuinely you? Do you get to make genuine connections with others? And what about the morning after when you wake up tired, dehydrated, and feeling bad? What about that? Most of us conveniently forget that drug and alcohol binges come with at least twice that amount of time of feeling bad. Correcting yourself by thinking about those bad times, thinking about throwing up, needing friends to get you home, passing out in places, being uncomfortable, having a headache – that’s all important too.

Glamorizing drugs and alcohol as part of your lifestyle is not going to get you a fun summer. However, you can actively confront your mindset when you do and make sure you remember the bad times as well.

And, having a summer without those bad times probably sounds pretty good right?

Make Sure You Understand Yourself

two friends chatting near the oceanIt’s important to know what triggers you. Chances are, if you’ve been going to therapy or addiction treatment, you’re already working on that. Understanding what is likely to trigger you means you can better plan having support networks around you when those triggers occur. You can also think about avoiding those triggers.

For most people, triggers look like:

  • Being around drugs or alcohol
  • Seeing people you used with
  • Being put in situations of stress
  • Being in situations that would previously have resulted in drinking or using
  • Being at parties or around others using
  • Being in certain environments like a beach, a bar, etc., that you might associate with getting drunk or using

For example, if you used to go to a resort in Mexico to get drunk and high over the summer, you probably don’t want to go to a beach in Mexico this summer. That will probably trigger you a great deal, and it will be difficult to avoid being surrounded by people who are heavily drinking.

Understanding your triggers means you can take steps to plan your vacation around those triggers and to have support when you can’t avoid those things. E.g., you’re going on a city trip and you know you can’t avoid bars, so you bring a sober friend you can talk to so you know you’ll get support even if you’re feeling cravings.

Here, it’s also a good idea to plan in how to react to cravings. That means figuring out how to take 15 minutes to do something with your hands, talk to a friend, solve a Rubik’s cube,

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Plan Sober Fun

two friends chatting near the oceanKnowing what to avoid is only half the battle. You also have to know what you think is fun, what you can do for fun, and where you’ll find enjoyment. You still want your summer to be enjoyable, relaxing, and entertaining. You still want to feel like you’ve had a good time. That often means planning in sober fun. What is “sober fun”? That depends on you and what you like. For most people, “fun” works out to:

  • Social time where you get to engage with others, including people you know and strangers
  • Challenge
  • Games
  • Feeling like you’re contributing or making a difference
  • Adrenaline

Not everyone will like all of these things. However, most people like at least some of them. You can work that out to:

  • Sober parties and social outings, like dance classes, where you get to engage with others without alcohol. Don’t be afraid to throw your own parties. But, keep in mind there are sober events in most areas.
  • Physical activities, especially group activities. Think dancing, skating, bouldering, and other similar activities. Swimming might be less fun because it’s less social on average unless you’re playing water polo. Hiking is a great choice whether you’re traveling or staying home.
  • Challenging activities, like bouldering, escape rooms, chess, or board games, are a great option.
  • You’ll still want to feel excitement, so do things that are exciting. That can mean taking spontaneous trips, going on rollercoasters or water slides, going skydiving, or asking people to dance. The point is that you want to feel excitement because that’s an important part of having fun.
  • Volunteering, helping out with friends, and contributing to your self-help group or family are also an important part of having fun. Especially as you move further into recovery, you’ll find that fun and enjoyment is more about building moments that are enjoyable and creating a life that is worth living, and that means giving back. You’ll find that volunteering is extremely rewarding, if not “fun” in the most classic sense.

If you’re traveling, it’s also important to make time to experience food, culture, and sights. That means hiking, eating, local music, and city trips as part of your planned fun.

Don’t Give Up Self Care Routines

Most of us learn significant self-care routines as part of rehab. That means you’ll have a routine of wake up at a specific time, eat something healthy, work out, clean a bit, do your therapy or maintenance homework, go about your day, come home, eat something healthy, clean up, have a bedtime routine, go to bed at about the same time every night. The order of that can differ a lot but all of those elements should be in it.

Here, it’s important that you stick to that routine as you go about your summer. It doesn’t matter that you might not be going to college or to work, you might be in a different location, etc., but you should still maintain the self-care routines. That normally means that you should exercise about 80% of days, you should eat healthy meals about 80% of the time, and you should go to bed at the same time about 80% of the time. It’s okay to give that up for 2-3 days of short vacation, but other than that, you should stick to your routines so you can maintain your self-care and your mental health.

If you think you’re struggling or you’re not sure about getting through the summer clean and sober, it’s always a good idea to ask for extra help. That can mean signing up for a self-help group at your destination, it can mean signing up for telehealth therapy, it can mean going into treatment over the summer. It’s important that you ask for the help you need so you have the support you need to get through your summer clean and sober.