Summer has finally arrived, and you know what that means – backyard BBQs, blistering beach days, and a potential excess of uncharted free time. Summertime means a less rigid routine, and unfortunately, falling away from structure and predictability is not always an ideal circumstance for the alcoholic or addict. The season is rich with prospective relapse triggers, from parties and cruises with friends to family vacations and reunions. However, if you take the necessary precautions and stay honest and true to yourself and your comfort levels, you can walk away from the chaos of summer completely unscathed.
We have compiled several suggestions and tips to help you stay sober in two of the most precarious summer situations – parties and family vacations.
Stay Sober at Summer Parties
Here are five sure-fire ways to avoid relapse in a summer party environment. And remember – if things get a little too tempting at any point in time, just leave! Tell your friends or your family members that something personal has come up, and get to a meeting as quickly as possible.
- Rehearse your response.
Don’t be shocked and appalled when someone approaches you and innocently asks, “Hey man, want a beer?” Be sure that you have an answer prepared so that you are not caught completely off-guard. Usually, something as simple as, “No thanks, I don’t drink,” will suffice. If you are in a close-knit group of friends and you feel comfortable doing so, let them know that you are in a program of sobriety, and you aren’t interested in ingesting any mood or mind altering substances. Other options include:
- “Thanks, but I’m driving.”
- “No thank you, I’m not feeling well.”
- “I’m allergic to alcohol.”
- Bring a sober support.
Most parties will allow for a ‘plus one’. Make a deal with one of your friends that if you ever want to go to a backyard BBQ, he or she will join you – and vice versa. And if, for whatever reason, this special friend is not available on the day of the big event – find someone else! Bringing a sober support with you will not only help you through the situation, but it will leave you with a viable excuse if you feel the need to take off early. Simply say your friend is not feeling well and head to a meeting!
- Call your sponsor.
Make sure your sponsor knows where you are going and what you will be doing ahead of time, so that he or she will either be available to take your calls or give you the number of someone who can. Set up a time to check-in with your sponsor once you get to the party, to both hold yourself accountable and take a break to honestly gage how you are feeling. For example, if the party starts at 2 in the afternoon, tell your sponsor to expect a call at 4:30. Set an alarm on your phone so that you don’t forget!
- Bring your own beverages.
It may be beneficial to bring your own supply of non-alcoholic beverages. This way, you can be sure to avoid the bar or the drink table, and you will know that your drink was not accidentally contaminated. Keep the drink in your hand if you want to avoid the dreaded, “Hey, can I get you a drink?” Be sure to bring along an ample supply, for ‘mixers’ tend to go quite quickly at summer parties!
- Develop a back-up plan.
It is always a wise idea to go into a potentially perilous situation with a well thought-out escape plan. Of course, if you do decide that you aren’t yet quite comfortable enough to attend such a party, and you do decide to leave, you will want to avoid sitting home alone in self-pity and resentment. Make sure you’ve got a back up plan! Let your friends know that if all does not go well, you will meet them at the beach in an hour. Set yourself up with another social event, so you can vent your frustration in a healthy and supportive environment while being reminded that you absolutely can have fun in sobriety.
After attending the party, honestly gage how you are feeling. Were you able to have fun and leave unscathed, barely bothered by the superfluity of beer and booze? Or did the whole situation leave you feeling a bit burned up, perhaps resentful at the fact that while everyone else could drink and have fun, you were forced to look on while being slowly consumed with self-pity and contempt? If you related more to the latter, it may be wise to avoid parties where you know there will be drinking. Be honest about your feelings and take immediate action – reach out, share about your experience in a meeting, and ask for advice from members of your support network. Organize your own sober cook-out. Do what you can to keep yourself safe and protected, keeping in mind that there will be plenty of other parties to attend in the future, when you feel more secure in your sobriety.
Surviving the Family Vacation
Spending any extended period of time in close-quarters with your immediate family is often a recipe for high stress levels – and could potentially be a recipe for disaster, if you do not travel equipped with the tools you need to maintain sobriety in the toughest of settings. Take a look at the following suggestions, and do what you can to protect your sobriety while away with your delightfully dysfunctional family.
- Plan sober activities ahead of time.
Sit down with your family and map out a few fun sober activities you can plan on participating in once you reach your destination. Are you going somewhere tropical? Look into snorkeling, paddle boarding, or taking a diving lesson or two. Going to a remote cabin in the woods? Look up some hiking trails and white water rafting spots. Planning an itinerary will help keep you engaged (and sane).
- Map out some meetings in the area you will be staying.
Make sure you look into nearby meetings, and set up viable transportation to and from the meeting locations. Meeting attendance is not only a crucial component of maintained sobriety, but having a little break from your family every once in a while will probably come as quite a relief.
- Download Skype or FaceTime onto your cell phone.
In addition to regular phone calls, make sure you download some kind of online chatting application. Seeing a familiar face is sometimes much more beneficial than merely hearing a familiar voice. Set up regular times to FaceTime with some close sober friends.
- Avoid triggering situations.
If your parents are going wine tasting, maybe stay behind and do some reading. If your cousins or siblings are going to the local dive bar at night, maybe stay behind and play board games with the remaining family members. Keep yourself safe from potentially risky scenarios whenever possible.
- Bring some good books.
Bring a combination of recovery-themed books and other good reads that help you to relax and mentally escape in a healthy way. Try ‘Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects’, ‘Pass It On’, or ‘The Language of the Heart’. Chances are, you already know a few people who own these books, and given the circumstances would be more than willing to lend you their copy. Ask around!
If you go into your vacation fully equipped with the tools and coping mechanisms you know you will need to regularly employ, your chances at staying sober will increase significantly. Be sure you are prepared, and take some alone time when you need to. Make sure that you have at least five sober supports (including your sponsor) on speed-dial, so that when the going gets tough, a compassionate voice of reason is truly only a phone call away.
Summer can be a strenuous time for the recovering alcoholic, but with a solid program of recovery in place and a few reliable friends, we can conquer any obstacle placed in our path. Have a joyous, adventure-filled, sober summer, one and all!