Sunshine, beach days, swimming, friends, and outside events! For many of us, this brings back memories of when our using was fun. The late nights spent with friends and families laughing around the campfire. All these things and more made summer the best season of the year. Eventually, the fun stopped, but the need to use stayed. We used drugs and alcohol to feel normal, maintain our withdrawals, help us be social, and entirely simply stop the feeling of guilt, shame, and resentment. These factors led us to recovery, and we do not want to forget what brought us here.
Whether or not you are a new clean or a seasoned long-timer, the summer provides an excellent opportunity to show gratitude to our gifts of recovery. Our addictions no longer dictate our schedules, and we can show up to commitments with family and friends. This is nothing short of a miracle! We’ve worked hard to get to this place and take the time to make sure we stay on the path of recovery. For many of us, however, the summer can also be a trigger, especially in our first five years. We’ve been asked, how do I stay clean through the summer? How do I attend events where there is drinking? How do I manage my triggers when I am with other people who may not understand addiction? Check out this list to see how you can enjoy the summer, manage triggers, and stay on target!
1. Stay connected to your support group
Our friends in recovery have all had to manage triggers, and those that came before us, have a wealth of knowledge they want to share. Those in our network are there to guide us through times of struggle and care about our sobriety. These individuals can understand when the temptation of a drink on a sunny day seems like a great idea. They are here to remind us that one drink turns into too many to count, and then we are back at square one. Showing humility and vulnerability does not make us weak; it reminds us that we need help to stay clean. We can always depend on others to be our guiding light when things are tough.
2. Keep yourself busy while maintaining balance
Ask any recovering addict, and they’ll usually agree, boredom is one of the biggest reasons people relapse. To maintain long-term recovery, we learn how to live a more balanced and productive life. Make time for social events this summer but remember to not put your recovery down. Keep attending meetings, calling your sponsor, helping the newcomer, seeing your counsellor, and writing the steps. We often must remind ourselves that we have found a new freedom, but we must continue to do the work to enjoy that freedom. Life doesn’t have to be all work, but it is essential to stay clean and sober.
3. Go out and enjoy the beach or patio
When we get into recovery, many of us believe we are never going to have fun again. This is not the truth. Recovery gives us the ability to go out and enjoy these activities; we just have to stay vigilant. Bring friends that understand your recovery with you to the beach, or take a group of friends in recovery out with you to enjoy dinner on the patio. These situations are where you are going to form long-lasting relationships and create positive memories. You’ll often hear long-timers share stories about the fun times they have had with their friends; this is the opportunity to make those stories for yourself. They can be inspiring for the newcomer to hear.
4. Have an exit strategy
We may find ourselves in situations that are not good for our recovery. Maybe it’s getting late, and the group beside you at the beach is getting a little out of control, or the family BBQ is bringing back memories that are contributing to fear. It is okay to leave to protect your sobriety. If you drive, bring your own car so you can go when things might be getting to be a bit too much. Bring money for a cab or call a friend to come and get you. If you are triggered, try not to fight through it. The best solution is to remove yourself from the situation.
5. Honour your journey
One day clean is a miracle, and you are doing it today! You have worked hard to get to this place, and if you’ve taken the time to read this blog, you care about maintaining your recovery. Always remember the reason you decided to get clean and sober. Remind yourself that if I stay clean today, I’ll have the opportunity to do great things tomorrow. We may become fearful, overwhelmed, triggered, or just need to remove ourselves from the situation. You do not have to justify or explain why you have to leave. Building confidence and boundaries in recovery are essential, and the more we practice it, the easier it becomes.
Get out there and enjoy the gifts that recovery has given you. Keep calm, try to conquer fear, and remember that you are never alone. Together, we can navigate our way through anything!