The summer months bring joy and excitement to many of us as we gear up for a season of sunbathing, barbecues, festivals and outdoor adventures.
However, some people might be feeling a little anxious in the run up to summer, particularly if they are trying to stay sober.
Fun in the sun can be exciting, but many of the events that occur in the summer will have drinks and other substances readily available, and the peer pressure to come along with it.
Knowing how to avoid these temptations and stay sober can help you enjoy your summer without falling back into the cycle of addiction or engaging in activities you do not want to do.
Where to Get Help for Your Alcohol and/or Drug Addiction
Not everyone who wants to be sober for summer will have a substance addiction, but if you do then help is available to you.
Before we get started on the tips for staying sober in the summer, if you are currently struggling with a drug and/or alcohol addiction then seeking help now will help you significantly in your addiction recovery.
Addiction rehab can help you to manage your addiction, unpack the reasons behind your developing addiction and find the best ways for you to recover from the effects of your addiction.
Some substances can be very difficult and even dangerous to try to wean yourself off of independently, and therefore attending an addiction rehab is highly recommended.
For example, alcohol addiction recovery can be a complex process and, depending on the severity of the addiction, can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms can be managed through a detox which will take place during your rehab treatment.
Following this, there are a variety of addiction therapies to treat the psychological and physical elements of your addiction, including:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
12 Step Programmes
Medically Assisted Therapy
Following your treatment, you will get resources to help you remain sober long-term. Studies show that people who attend addiction rehab are less likely to achieve long-term sobriety and more likely to relapse.
Therefore, it is highly recommended that you reach out today to get help for your alcohol and/or drug addiction, before kick-starting your sober summer with help from these top tips.
1. Identify Potential Risks and Challenges
Summer can be challenging for people who want to remain sober for several reasons, and knowing how and why these challenges might arise can really help you plan your sober summer successfully.
Some of the difficulties you might face and things you might need to plan for include:
Social gatherings: barbecues, bars, pubs and parties
Festivals: music, comedy and all sorts of festivals often take place in summer
Long days: Longer days mean more time to fill
Time off: Time off of university, school and work can mean that we have more time alone and/or more time to fill where can choose what we want to do
Holidays: There is often a lot of pressure to drink alcohol and sometimes to partake in substances when on holiday
FOMO: Even if you do not attend these events, often the frustration of being at home alone and seeing your friends at summer events can be hard to cope with
SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) usually takes place in the winter, however some people have more severe symptoms in the summer. Symptoms include low mood, irritability, despair and lethargy, and when we feel at our worst we are more likely to want something to make us feel better (e.g. drugs or alcohol).
Alongside these common reasons why summer can be a hard month to stay sober in, there might be reasons that are personal to you and you will need to honestly identify them to ensure that you are prepared.
Preparing for your sober summer is key to ensuring that you achieve your goals and do not fall back into participating in activities you know that you do not want to do.
2. Create a Relapse Prevention Plan
If you attend or have attended addiction rehab, then you will have or be given a relapse prevention plan upon completion of your treatment.
This relapse prevention plan is a personalised document which contains useful tools to help you remain sober, avoid temptations and tackle cravings. If you work through this plan at a rehab clinic, then your case worker will go through this and create your plan with you.
However, you can also create a relapse prevention plan yourself, to help you organise your thoughts and have your key relapse prevention methods and key contacts all in one place.
Relapse prevention plans often include things like methods that you have found useful for staying sober such as mindfulness exercises, activities to do when you feel as though you might be tempted, steps to take when you encounter triggers and how to prepare for challenging situations.
It will also include the stages of relapse, so you can identify when you might be heading down a dangerous path and intercept those thought patterns.
You can find relapse prevention plan outlines online, and fill in the sections by yourself. This can include researching the stages of relapse and finding tools that you find useful for your own sobriety.
Creating a relapse prevention plan allows you to have a physical form of support and forces you to properly consider and confront what you can do when you encounter a challenging situation such as a trigger.
At the end of your relapse prevention plan, you will have key contacts for people who can help you in times of difficulty or crisis.
This might include family and friends, doctors, a crisis team or a charity helpline and contact details for aftercare services if you need ongoing treatment.
What Goes Into a Relapse Prevention Plan?
The key components to a relapse prevention plan might include:
Key coping strategies for staying sober
Tools to help you when you encounter unpredictable triggers
Methods to prepare for predicted triggers
Alternative activities to participate in instead of the use of the addictive substance
Motivations for getting and remaining sober
How to identify and what to do when you encounter the stages of relapse
Aftercare services contacts
3. Plan Your Activities
Planning your activities can help you prepare for what you might encounter (e.g. temptations and triggers) as well as giving you something to look forward to.
Spontaneous summer activities can be great, but if there is a high likelihood that addictive substances will be widely available, it can make it more difficult to relax and enjoy the activity.
Whether you have a drug or alcohol addiction, or just want to remain sober for summer and cut down on your substance use, planning out what you are doing and when is a great way to make sure you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of temptation.
You can still attend the beloved events you want to too, such as a trip to a bar or a back garden barbecue, but planning it out will help you be aware of any adaptations you might need to make (e.g. bringing your own alcohol-free drink).
It’s much easier to say ‘I’ll just have one then!’ if it’s treated as a fun and spontaneous indulgence that everyone is partaking in, but if we know that we have alternatives or that others will be in the same boat, then we can have a much more fun and relaxing time!
Physical activities are great for mental and physical health. They can be enjoyable too!
4. Try New Things and Meet New People
Drug and/or alcohol use often has connotations with specific people, places and activities.
For example, if you always meet up with your friend on a Friday evening after work at your local pub for a few drinks, then going to the same pub with that same friend on a Friday night might make you want to have a few drinks.
This doesn’t mean that you should not see your friends, or attend your favourite places, but it might be useful to explore new activities too and meet your friends in an environment which is different to where you previously met.
This can be particularly useful if you are early in your addiction recovery journey, and it can help you to form new habits which do not involve partaking in drugs or alcohol.
It can also give you a new hobby to enjoy with or without friends, and can replace some of the pleasure you might have gotten from drugs or alcohol.
Summer is a great time to try new things, and physical activities are a great way to improve your physical and mental health, as well as giving your mind something to concentrate on so that it isn’t always consciously focussed on avoiding substances or overcoming cravings, and improving your overall lifestyle.
5. Practice Saying No and Find Alternatives
In situations where you are around alcohol or drugs, you might need to actively say ‘no’ if someone offers it to you.
Practice saying ‘no’, how you will respond to people and how you can manage the social pressures which often come with substance use, and release some of the stress put upon you.
You might explain that you are in addiction recovery in which case your friends should be respectful of that, or you might not want to offer an explanation - particularly if you are with people you don’t know very well.
In this situation, practice saying ‘no’ and if others continue to pressure you, make sure you can confidently say a firm ‘no’ and either take yourself away from the situation or find an alternative so that you are not tempted to give in.
Alternatives might include alcohol-free drinks such as mocktails, alcohol-free wine and alcohol-free beer, or soft drinks such as juice, tonic water and fizzy drinks.
Often people assume that alternatives to alcohol will be boring or not taste as good, but it is well worth exploring the many alcohol-free options at pubs, bars and restaurants as well as in shops and supermarkets, as often these drinks can be just as good if not better than their alcoholic counterparts.
6. Have A Support System You Can Rely On
Having a good support system can really help when you are trying to get or stay sober, especially during difficult times.
Make sure you have someone you can go to when you find things getting difficult, and that they can be there for you for emotional support and advice.
Sometimes it can be hard to know what to do about a situation, especially if we are affected by mental health and/or addiction issues.
However, having a friend, family member or supportive community can help.
If you do not have a support system, then you can always join a local community group or online support group.
It might sound scary at first, but support groups help to connect you with people who are experiencing similar issues, and you are all there to get help and help each other.
7. Manage Your Emotions
Addiction and substance use is often connected to how we feel, whether we are drinking to make ourselves feel better, engaging in substances to lessen our nerves or doing both in order to fit in with others and not feel left out.
Therefore knowing how to manage our emotions can mean that we take control of what we put into our bodies without feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope.
If you attend addiction recovery, then you will learn techniques which allow you to analyse, understand and manage your emotions, and examine why you feel the way that you do.
Whether it’s connected to an underlying mental health condition such as anxiety or depression, is situational such as when we feel like we’re missing out or whether it is connected to specific situations, understanding how we feel and why we feel that way can help us manage it without substances.
When we know how we can manage our emotions without turning to or masking them through drugs or alcohol, we can enjoy a sober summer without feeling like we are giving up having a good time.
So you're sober summer is just around the corner, and with these tips for avoiding drugs and alcohol you can ensure that you take care of your mind and body with confidence.
It can be difficult to avoid temptations and manage cravings, but knowing where the challenges will be and how you can overcome them, will ensure that you have the sober summer you’ve been waiting for.