Despite how some may feel about the heat, summertime is the most wonderful time of the year. It is a time of barbecues, endless days at the beach, music festivals, and weekends at the lake. Summer is definitely a time when our spirits are high, but those feelings of bliss and contentment can be a double-edged sword for those in recovery. Many of the social activities we associate with summer fun often involve alcohol, and there is always the danger that people who are sober can get caught up in the moment and slip back into substance abuse.
As with any other time of year, there is a lot more to summer than day-drinking and diving into a cooler of beer. If you are in recovery, there is great fun to be had during the summer months—and you can bypass drugs and alcohol altogether. Here are some basic yet essential tips for a sober summer.
Step Up Your Support Game
If you have been around the tables of a 12-Step program for any length of time, you have heard the saying it works if you work it almost ad nauseum. This is one of the most common sayings in the recovery community, and the philosophy behind it is very simple: in order to strengthen your sobriety, you must put some fire and passion into it.
During the summer months, when the temptation is high to drink or use drugs, an excellent way to combat any temptations is to step up your recovery. Increase the number of meetings you attend and put in the needed work with your sponsor. To keep things fresh, you may want to check out other 12-Step meetings in your area that you haven’t attended yet, or even visit some non-12-Step recovery support groups. Establishing fellowship with people outside of your normal recovery circle can expand your horizons and open the door to new opportunities.
Soak in the Vitamin D
Another excellent tip to stay sober this summer is to embrace the natural high that is provided by Vitamin D. The number one perk of summer is obviously the sunshine, and soaking up as much as possible (safely, of course!) is extremely beneficial to our overall health. Vitamin D not only helps your mind stay sharp and positive, it can also help ward off disease and help us lose weight. Best of all, it gives our skin a healthy shine that makes us look and feel wonderful. In addition to sunlight, Vitamin D is also found in foods such as salmon, fortified milk, yogurt, portobello mushrooms, pork, eggs, and dairy products.
Take advantage of the warm temperatures and sunny skies and get yourself outside! When you connect with Mother Nature, it removes you from your daily stresses, awakens the senses, and gives you a healthy rush. There are so many activities that you can take part in:
- going to the beach, swimming, surfing
- hiking, camping, kayaking
- biking, skateboarding, rollerblading
- sports, Frisbee, putt-put golf
- visiting a nature preserve
- going to a zoo
- spending a day at a theme park
- rocking out sober at a music festival
A lot of these activities will also get you moving, which is great for your physical health and your mental health! This can also be a time for you to try some new things, and, as an added bonus, you can include family and friends for added fun and quality time together.
A solid tip for a sober summer is to give of yourself in the service of others. Volunteering is an essential foundation in maintaining your hard-earned sobriety. With drugs and alcohol in the rear-view mirror, you can refocus your time and energy towards helping others. You can volunteer at a local community shelter or animal shelter. You can help out at a near-by community center, senior citizens home, or youth center.
Better yet, as a sober person, you can be of service to those who are still struggling with substance abuse. Ask around your support network to find out ways that you can get involved, like bringing in recovery support meetings, and how you can contribute to your recovery community. Helping others builds your self-worth and confidence, and strengthening these characteristics dramatically decreases the chance of relapse.
Explore Your Spirituality
One of the most beautiful things about being sober is getting in touch with your spirit and the surrounding universe. The greatest thing about spirituality is it is entirely personal and entirely yours. What ideas do you have about spirituality? Whether you don’t really understand what spirituality is or you feel like you’re a spiritual gangster, there is always more to explore. While prayer is absolutely a form of spirituality, it is not the only way to explore your spirituality, and it’s not a “requirement” for someone to be a spiritual being. Spirituality is just about any activity through which a person searches for meaning in life.
For some, the search for meaning takes place in mindfulness activities like meditation and guided breathing. For others, spirituality can be going for a long run, driving with the windows down, drawing or painting, volunteering, even playing with your dog. Spirituality can also be understood as any time that we allow ourselves to be present, in the moment, aware of all our senses. The more we practice living in the moment, the more we can appreciate the simple things we encounter daily. There is so much to see and experience in our world, and every experience enriches our lives and our spirits.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Being active and working with our hands is a great way to practice being in the moment, as well as engage our brains. For people in recovery, picking up a hobby can be a healthy way to stay busy, while still doing something we enjoy. There have even been studies that show the benefits of engaging in a hands-on task are similar to the benefits of meditation: reduced anxiety, less stress, and an awesome brain state called creative “flow.”
When we get into flow, we’re so engaged in what we’re doing that we lose all sense of time, self, and the external chaos of our lives. Flow is also characterized by slower brain waves—closer to the relaxed, therapeutic state our brain enters just before we fall asleep—than the fast-moving waves we experience daily when we’re awake. Flow can happen in so many different ways, depending on what engages your brain the most:
- Coloring, crafting
- Cooking, baking
- Drawing, painting
- Knitting, crocheting
- Playing an instrument
To stay on top of your sobriety over the summer months, you must be honest with yourself and be accountable for what you feel and do. Despite your best efforts, you will run into roadblocks in your recovery journey. During those moments when you feel unsure and shaky, it’s important to reach out to those in your support network and come clean with your feelings. More often than not, you will find someone else who is going through a similar situation, or maybe has gone through a similar experience. Not only will you feel relieved getting whatever is bothering you off your chest, but asking for help can also enable you to overcome any challenges that you face in your sobriety and use them as excellent learning experiences.
A huge part of recovery is self-care, which encompasses our physical health along with our happiness and mental well-being. Just because we don’t “indulge” in a drink or a drug anymore, doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in other ways! As a person in recovery who works hard daily to maintain your sobriety and help those around you, you need to make time to treat yourself every once-in-awhile:
- Enjoy your favorite coffee
- Sleep in
- Buy yourself your favorite candy
- Go see a movie
- Pick out a book or magazine that interests you
- Take yourself and a friend out to eat
- Grab an ice cream cone
- Go on a mini day-cation with friends
- Find a concert or some live-music in your area
- Head to the mall and get a new outfit
Let The Music Play
There is no doubt that music has the power to transform our mood and well-being. When our favorite song comes on the radio or Spotify playlist, it instantly boosts our spirits and takes us to a better mental and spiritual space. A great tip to stay sober this summer is to create a special summer playlist for your listening enjoyment. Go through your music catalog and choose those songs that bring you to your happy place. Burn this special playlist on CD’s, an iPod, or an MP3 player and take it with you wherever you go. Simply turn on, tune in, and follow your bliss.
Take it Easy On Yourself
One of the most important tips to keep in mind for a sober summer is to take a step back and realize that recovery is a process. There is no shortcut to sobriety, and there is no perfect way to get sober—each person has to make recovery their own. Despite your best intentions, there will be days when you will far short and you will experience a slip of some sort. If you make a mistake, it is alright to feel disappointed—but you can’t allow yourself to stay stuck. Take a deep breath, forgive yourself, identify what led to the mistake, and learn from it.