Navigating Summer While In Recovery

July 5, 2019

Summer is a season of high expectations. It is filled with celebrations big and small, from weekend barbecues to the 4th of July. Sunshine and warm breezes make many of us feel compelled to get out and socialize—and that’s great, but for those in recovery, navigating summer outings can get tricky. Beach-side margaritas and beers with hamburgers are summer staples, for example, that might be off-limits for those in early recovery from a substance use disorder, or for those who are pursuing a long-term plan of abstinence. Other temptations, like marijuana, cocaine and other “party drugs” may present themselves during social gatherings as well. But that doesn’t mean you have to (or even should) isolate yourself all summer. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get through summer while in recovery:

Hang Out In Sober Circles

If you have been using drugs or alcohol for a while, it might be hard to believe that fun, substance-free gatherings exist. But start spending time with people in active recovery and you’ll find that these events are actually all over the place. If you don’t have a formal treatment program where you can meet peers (or even if you do), try out a local recovery meeting like Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. Often, people who attend these meetings spend time together outside of the meetings, hanging out, organizing recovery-oriented events, and having sober parties. It can be a lot of fun to spend time with like-minded people who support your recovery.

Of course, you probably also want to spend time with friends who are not in recovery, too. It’s not the best idea to continue to spend time with people in active addiction, especially in early recovery, but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid friends and places who engage in non-chaotic use. If you’re going to a beach party where you know some of the attendees might sling back a beer or two, prepare yourself mentally. Bring a supportive buddy, or let a friend at the party know you’re in recovery and want to abstain from using substances. That way, if you become tempted, you’ll have someone to help you stay on track.

Prepare Distress Tolerance Skills

If you know that being out and about might be triggering for you, arm yourself with distress tolerance skills. There are a lot of different tools people use to manage stress. If you’re in treatment or seeing a therapist, you can ask your support team to provide some ideas that they think will be useful for you. A couple of examples include stopping and taking a deep breath. It might sound simple, but if you find yourself in a triggering situation—whether that means wanting to use, or getting into a heated argument with someone—taking a moment to step back from the volatile situation and calm your physical body can help you think before acting in a way that might harm your recovery. Another tool is to put something cold on your face. You’ve seen it in the movies, and it actually works. Dipping your face in a sink of cold water, or even putting a glass of ice on your face, helps “reset” and calm your central nervous system.

Keep Working On Your Recovery

It might be tempting to take a break or relax the intensity of your recovery work during the summer. After all, hanging with friends and taking a vacation sure sound more appealing than sitting in therapy groups and filling out workbooks. And while there’s nothing wrong with having fun during the summer—in fact, engaging in substance-free, enjoyable activities will reinforce your recovery—it’s also important not to become complacent. Sometimes, when we feel like we are on top of our recovery, that is exactly when it slips out from under our feet. Keep doing your recovery work, whatever that may be. If it means continuing to make weekly individual therapy appointments or attend nightly peer support groups, make sure to set a recovery commitment and stick to it. It’s kind of like taking the full course of antibiotics; you might feel like stopping after you feel better, but if you don’t take them all, you could end up harming yourself in the future. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying summer, but make sure you continue to work on your health while you do it.

The Ammon Foundation believes that when individuals are holistically and strategically supported to build purposeful lives, the likelihood of them maintaining their recovery substantially increases. We provide this support via our two core programs – Ammon Recovery Scholars Program and Ammon Empowerment Workshop Program. To find out more about our programs, or to apply for an educational scholarship, please click here.