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By Kaitlyn Mercy
No matter how long you’ve been sober, there will always be activities, events, and times of the year that challenge your commitment to your recovery. For many people in recovery from substance abuse and addiction, summer can be a tough time to abstain from drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse is often at the center of summer activities like weddings, bonfires, road trips, vacations, beach days, and sporting events. Whether it’s your first sober summer or your 30th, the temptation to use can be overwhelming.
Everyone has a different recovery routine or activities that help them to maintain their sobriety. For some it looks like going to church and community events, for others it looks like going to regular 12 step meetings like AA or NA. Whatever your routine may be, don’t compromise it just because you’re on vacation or because the weather is nice. It may not feel like a big deal to deviate from your structured routine, but structure is one of the things that keeps those in recovery on track. 12 step meetings happen all over the place, and a quick google search can help you find sober events or a meeting for you to go to.
A big part of maintaining your sobriety is remembering what you’ve been working towards and why you got sober in the first place. Whether you got sober because of your family, your health, or something else, remembering those motivators in times of struggle is a good way to remind yourself of everything you’ve been working towards.
The world around you is full of triggers, and while it would certainly be nice, the world cannot screech to a halt to protect you from them. You can, however, protect yourself to some extent. Simple actions like avoiding going to bars with friends, not hanging around groups of people that you used to use with, and not walking down the beer or liquor isle of your local grocery store are all easy ways to avoid some potentially triggering situations.
In the event that you do face a trigger, which almost inevitably you will, there are lots of things you can do in order to walk yourself through the challenge. Having a metaphorical “tool box” of things you can do in case you do face a trigger is a great way to feel prepared. Things like DBT skills, carrying a journal, or practicing mindfulness are all great ways to slow down the racing thoughts that can come with a triggering situation.
When you first begin recovery, It can be really difficult to find new friends that aren’t using drugs or alcohol. Hanging out with people who are still using is only going to be detrimental to your physical and mental health, and could cause you to relapse. As you begin to attend sober community events and 12 step meetings (or their equivalent), you will begin to meet people who are also in search of sober friends. It’s also a good idea to let the people around you know that you’re not drinking or using drugs anymore. This avoids the possibility of them pressuring you to drink or offering you a substance. If they aren’t willing to support you in your sobriety and recovery, they likely aren’t someone you need to have in your life.
Staying sober all summer may feel like a bummer, especially for individuals who are newly in recovery. It may feel harmless to just have one drink or just smoke one joint, but one can easily turn into ten, and ten can turn into a relapse.
Instead of focusing on what you’re missing by not drinking or using drugs, try to focus on the positive parts of recovery, and applaud yourself for staying strong even through a challenging time.
Here are a few benefits and positive things about staying sober:
Alcohol and drug use impairs your emotional capacity, your judgment, and your rational thinking. When you’re unable to access emotions and incapable of making smart and healthy decisions, it affects the authenticity and genuine connections you may have with those around you. However, when you’re sober, you’re able to devote time, attention, and emotions to the people in your life who need you, and the people you want to have a deeper connection with.
Drinking and using drugs affects every part of your brain, but in particular, decision making and impulsivity are affected. The longer that you are sober, the more clarity you have to make positive and helpful choices, not just choices that enable addiction.
Mixed drinks, a few glasses of wine, a joint or three, or a bag of heroin. Whatever your poison is, it has likely cost you a whole lot of money. When you get sober, you’ll start to realize just how much money has gone towards your destructive habits.
No matter what your drug of choice was, that hangover feeling was there in one form or another the next day. Waking up the next day and being able to get going and just live your life without having to wait for the hangover to finally disappear is definitely one of the best benefits of being sober!
Whether this is your first or your fiftieth sober summer, there will be daily challenges that you have to overcome. Living your life without drugs or alcohol sounds extremely daunting, especially when you’ve been dependent on various substances for an extended period of time. As I’m sure you know, addiction can take over every aspect of your life and steal joy, happiness, and freedom from you. As you go through this summer and work to maintain the sobriety you’ve earned, remember everything that you have overcome.
Try to focus on what you have already accomplished, instead of what you still want to do with your life. Getting sober is no easy feat, but you did it, and you’re continuing to do it every day that you get out of bed and live your life. Stick with it! You got this.
Happy summer 2019 from Sandstone Care!