Summer is a beautiful time of year full of sunshine, long lazy days, vacations, and having fun outside.
For people in early recovery, however, it can be hard to contemplate navigating summer without alcohol. Many people who are facing their first sober summer wonder how they will enjoy beach days, barbeques, family gatherings, and other fun activities when people around them are drinking.
During summer it can be especially tempting to ‘romanticize’ drinking, or selectively remember the ways drinking was ‘fun’. The reality, though, is that there isn’t anything particularly special about drinking during the summer, it’s just that we have been programmed by advertising, social media, and other external influences to believe that drinking is an aspect to summertime fun.
Here’s the good news: people who don’t drink report that fun during the summer is actually better sober. There are a myriad of reasons why being fully present for all the good times summer has to offer is desirable over numbing through alcohol, or falling into the trap of believing we need alcohol to somehow enhance our experiences.
It’s especially important, though, to think ahead to get the most out of your first sober summer, and it all starts with prioritizing your self-care. It’s critical to nurture your whole self mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually for a complete sense of wellness. If you approach potentially difficult times from a good place, then you’ve created a foundation to reduce the risk of relapse. Vulnerability to relapse increases when we neglect self-care and/or are faced with a situation where we don’t feel ready or prepared.
Ways to Make the Most of Your First Sober Summer
Be Gentle on Yourself
This is the most important thing you can do in recovery no matter what the situation, but especially when facing sober ‘firsts’, like your first sober summer. Be kind to yourself, and treat yourself the way you would a loved one. Stay mindful of your needs, and advocate for yourself. Trust your instincts; it’s one of the greatest gifts of sobriety that we get to be aware of our feelings, emotions, and needs, so speak up for yourself and what you need. If an occasion or event feels like ‘too much’, it probably is! Make alternate plans or find time to indulge in healthy things you like to do instead. In recovery, we have the freedom of choice – enjoy this!
Isolating is toxic for anyone, and there is no need to go into hiding because you don’t drink. Stay close to your support network, and with other sober people. Whether it’s via online chats/support groups or face-to-face meetings, you can never have too many sober people in your life to support you! It helps to be connected to others who understand how you feel, and who are also having a good time without alcohol so you remember that you are NOT alone. Make people aware of how you’re feeling, and let them help you plan ahead. Ask for advice – no matter what you’re going through, someone else has walked this path before you and their experiences can help.
Be honest with others, but most especially be honest with yourself. It’s okay to have trepidations or concerns, or to feel like you’ll never have fun again without alcohol. Although this isn’t true, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings and share them with people who understand. If you find yourself feeling pressured to go to something and you don’t think it’s good for your newfound sobriety, talk about it. This is not a time to say yes to all your plans. You get to pick and choose which things are healthy for you, and which aren’t. If you feel like you want to drink, let someone know. Learning to open up to ourselves and to others is an essential part of a healthy and sustainable recovery.
Have a Plan
If you are going out, whether it be alone or with someone else, it’s always great to have a plan. Think about how you will get someplace – it’s usually a good idea to have access to your own transportation so you can remove yourself if you need to. Bring a sober or supportive friend with you to alleviate social pressure. Think about what you will say if someone offers you a drink. You don’t owe them any explanation, but it’s nice to be ready with what you’re comfortable saying. Let people in your sober network know where you are, so you can call them if you need support.
Bring Your Own Beverage
If you are attending a summer party and you can’t be certain there will be non-alcoholic beverages available, bring your own favorite drink. It’s nice to arrive with something for the host, and then you can be sure you have what you prefer to drink available. It’s also a good idea to have your own beverage in your hand at all times, so people will be less inclined to offer you a drink from the bar, or to bring you an unsolicited alcoholic beverage.
Plan Fun Things to Do
One of the greatest gifts of sobriety is the freedom to choose. When we are actively drinking, we tend to talk about doing things we never get to, and in recovery we can do anything! Plan fun things to do that aren’t centered around alcohol. It may take some getting used to at first, but every time you do something without the crutch of drinking you will reap the benefits of being fully present for everything. Plan a hike or nature walk, a trip to the beach, or a barbeque with sober friends. If a vacation seems too daunting in early sobriety, plan shorter day trips or a weekend getaway with people in your support network. It’s great to have things to look forward to, and it helps alleviate the temptation to isolate.
Most people in early recovery talk about how amazing it is to wake up without a hangover, or wondering what you did the night before. In sobriety, mornings become a treasured part of the day. Wake up rested and refreshed, and enjoy mornings to the fullest with a walk, workout, or other activity that wasn’t possible when you were drinking. Moving your body in the morning also releases healing endorphins that give you a natural feeling of peace and wellbeing, and starts each day on a positive note.
Put Your Sobriety First
Especially in the first year of sobriety, it’s important to prioritize your recovery above all else. There may be activities you aren’t comfortable doing yet without a drink, and that’s okay. That will come in time, or you will find other things you like to do instead. If going to a ball game without alcohol feels like too much, think of other activities and events that you enjoy or try something new. Nothing is worth risking your newfound sobriety, and there are so many fun choices of things to do there is no reason to push yourself.
At Herren Wellness we understand that recovery – from anything – is a difficult time full of a range of emotions. We work with guests to create a whole-health action management plan, allowing them to discover and explore many opportunities in recovery.
We help foster healthy habits and routines, including nutrition, fitness, sleep hygiene, creative exercises, and group activities that allow guests to reconnect with the things they love or discover new interests.
We help guests build the skills that are essential to a sustainable recovery, including mindfulness practices, self-care and self-esteem skills, maintaining healthy relationships, and digging into the root causes of what led them to become dependent. We guide guests on how to build upon the skills they already possess and help them discover their ‘why’, or what motivates them to maintain a life of wellness and recovery.
We also work with guests to create a meaningful and sustainable aftercare plan that includes healthy habits and routines that are meaningful to them. When you come to Herren Wellness, you become part of a vibrant and thriving community that doesn’t end when your stay ends. You become part of the Herren Wellness family.