Getting Through the Summer Sober

Getting sober means facing a lot of firsts. A first summer without alcohol can be particularly challenging because most everyone else is drinking. If you’re trying to stay sober this season, know the potential pitfalls and reflect on your personal triggers. Take steps to minimize or manage those triggers. Find a sober pal and get involved with activities and events without drinking. Plan ahead when faced with an event that will have alcohol. Take steps like these and be prepared to maintain sobriety this summer.

Drinking too much is a common problem in the U.S. The pandemic only made it worse. Alcohol consumption had already been increasing, especially among women. That trend continued through the quarantine as alcohol sales spiked.

Now is a good time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. Do you drink too much or too often? Do you drink to cope with bad feelings? Take a good, hard look at your habits.

If you are ready to make a change or if you are already newly sober, the summer season awaits. It may be challenging to get through, but with the right strategies and some positive support, you can do it.

Summer Drinking

Heavy drinking can be an issue any time of year, but for several reasons summer is particularly fraught for someone trying to stay sober:

  • Boozy holidays. Drinking spikes on most holidays, and summer has a few. These include Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day.
  • Warm weather. Getting outside in the nice weather provides more opportunity for drinking, like happy hour on the patio or a day at the beach.
  • Summer events. Summer is the time of year for picnics, barbecues, graduation parties, outdoor concerts, and other events at which drinking is typical.
  • College kids. When people are home from campus, they tend to get together with old friends, spend time outside, and party.
  • Vacations. A lot of people take vacations in the summer. They want to relax, cut loose, and often drink more than normal.

Anyone going sober for the summer faces all of these challenges as well as their own personal triggers. Above all else, summer tends to be a social season. You are likely to feel the pressure to drink with everyone else at parties, holidays, and on vacations.

Tips for a Sober Summer

The first step in maintaining your sobriety this summer is to be aware of the risks. By understanding why and how summer may pose a challenge to your sobriety brings important awareness. For example, if you tend to be a social drinker, you know summer barbecues will be an issue and can prepare and plan in advance. Knowing the risks and challenges you face, here are some useful tips for avoiding a relapse.

1. Set Limits on Being Around Alcohol.

Only you can say what your limits are, but give it careful consideration. Maybe you feel you can handle a party with light drinking and where you know you won’t be the only sober attendee. On the other hand, a party with a lot of heavy drinkers may be too much.

Set limits and boundaries. The point is to set yourself up for success. There is no need to face extra challenges. Know your limits and stick with them. If that means leaving a party or event early, don’t feel guilty about it. If necessary, leave without saying goodbye.

2. Attend Events With a Supportive Friend.

For the parties and other events you choose to attend, go with a friend or family member you trust. They should be supportive of your sobriety and ideally will also not be drinking at the event. Drive together and leave together.

3. Avoid People Who Don’t Support You.

This is a time when you’ll begin to discover who really cares about you. Hopefully, most of your friends will support your decision not to drink, but it’s likely there will be some who push you. Keep in mind that these people are probably uncomfortable with their own habits. They don’t want you to change because it reflects on their own poor choices. If you can’t be around certain people right now, avoid them with no apologies.

4. Find Things To Do That Don’t Involve Drinking.

This is easier said than done in summer when every activity and event seems to come with a cooler of beer. However, the more time you can spend at non-drinking events the better. One foolproof way to ensure there won’t be alcohol is to be the organizer. Plan an event or activity that won’t include drinking and invite friends. For example, organize a group run or walk that ends at an ice cream shop or host a movie night with mocktails and snacks.

5. Take Up a New Hobby.

Distractions are ideal for sobriety. When engaged in an activity, you don’t have time to ruminate on drinking. A new hobby or activity, or reengaging in an old one, is a great idea for a sober summer. Start training for a 5K race at the end of summer; take art classes at your local community center; take up hiking; start a garden; find a volunteer position. Tackle something you’ve always wanted to try and that you feel passionate about.

6. Make Stress Reduction a Habit.

Any kind of strategies you can use to manage your stress and relax will help you stay sober. What works for one person is less helpful for someone else, so try a few things before settling on a routine. Some good ideas include daily meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, positive visualization, and aromatherapy.

7. Prioritize Physical Health.

Summer is a great time to focus on all aspects of your health. When you prioritize physical health, you’ll feel good and be better equipped to cope with the urge to drink. Get exercise or some type of physical activity every day. Since it’s summer, get outside to enjoy nature and a little sunshine. Make healthy food choices and lose weight if you need to, while also getting enough sleep every night.

8. Start Treatment.

Some people can give up alcohol without professional support, but why not give yourself a leg up? Treatment for a substance use disorder can be as involved as a stay in a residential facility or as simple as a weekly counseling session and support group meetings.

Some type of treatment is the best tool you have in your arsenal for staying sober this summer. Mental health and addiction specialists can help you uncover the reasons you drink, process negative feelings, manage triggers, and reduce the risk of relapse.

9. Be Kind to Yourself.

As you go through this journey, it’s easy to lose patience or to be too hard on yourself. Giving up an addictive substance is not easy. Taking the first step by deciding to do it is brave in itself and something to be celebrated.

If you slip up, don’t beat yourself up over it. Imagine what you would say to or do for a friend in the same situation. Chances are you would be more compassionate and understanding. Treat yourself that way too, and ultimately you’ll be able to make healthier choices.

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Is Summer the Right Time To Get Sober?

If you have a problem with drinking, the best time to get sober is right now. But, if you’re on the fence, consider what summer has to offer. Yes, there can be challenges, but there are also opportunities. With warm weather, there are plenty of distractions, from kayaking and swimming to beach volleyball and summer concerts.

Social support is so important for staying sober, and it’s often easier to socialize in summer. Cold winter weather can make it more difficult to stay motivated to get out of the house to engage with others. While there may be a lot of parties with drinking during the summer, you also have plenty of other people around to support your lifestyle change.

Ultimately, getting sober and staying sober are both personal journeys. If you are considering cutting back on or stopping drinking, that alone may be the sign you need to go for it. Use these tips and strategies to face down your first summer with a positive sober outlook.