When Jeff H. was using, summer was a dangerous time of year. That’s when everyone — even people with generally healthy approaches to drugs and alcohol — went into party mode. Then, Jeff’s behavior didn’t stand out so much.
“It was the time of year when people started to party the way I partied all year long,” Jeff says. “For me it seemed like the only time of year that it was acceptable for me to behave the way I did once I started drinking or using.”
That’s why summer can be so challenging for people who have substance use disorder or who are in the early stages of recovery, says Jeff. He’s now been sober for three years and works at Asana Recovery, which offers detox, residential treatment and an outpatient program in Costa Mesa, California.
“It’s really easy to decide to keep using in the summer,” Jeff says. “You have warm weather so if you get stuck on the street you won’t freeze, and there are plenty of people partying.”
When Jeff decided to get sober in July 2016, he wondering what he would enjoy doing without drugs or alcohol. He was worried that he wouldn’t be interested in any of his favorite activities, but his sponsor helped him come to an important realization.
“I knew how to have fun sober, but I had just started drinking instead,” Jeff says. “All those things I enjoyed as a kid I actually still enjoyed. They just weren’t a priority over drugs and alcohol.”
During his first sober summer, he did all the things he loved to do, but this time without getting high or drunk.
“I enjoy going to concerts and baseball games,” he says. “Going to the beach and just spending time in the outdoors, hiking and camping.”
Some of those activities had been pushed aside as Jeff’s addiction became more severe, but in sobriety he has been able to reconnect with them.
“Basically, all the things I enjoyed up until I started using were things I started doing again in my sobriety,” he says.
Still, Jeff says that summer can be a complex time for people who are in recovery. He has these tips for people who are looking to have a great sober summer:
Don’t let your program slip.
When the sun is out and there are endless events happening around town it might be tempting to skip your meeting. However, that’s a slippery slope toward not prioritizing your recovery program.“The main lesson I learned my first summer of being sober was that once you start feeling better doesn’t mean you can stop working on yourself,” Jeff says. Rather than letting your program slip this summer, lean into the opportunity for more personal growth. “When I am feeling better is typically when I need to start working more in improving myself.”
Talk to your friends and family.
During the summer a lot of activities revolve around drinking. Make it clear to your friends and family that you will not be partaking, and let them know what they can do to help support your sobriety. Chances are, your loved ones will be happy to hang with the new, sober you. Jeff says that his friends never pushed him to drink, whether or not they were in recovery themselves.
“They are either good friends and respect my choices or they have just seen me drinking and using and know what it’s like to deal with me under the influence, so they are super grateful I’m sober,” he says.
Just because you’re not using doesn’t mean that you can’t have tons of fun during the summer months.“For me, having fun in sobriety is very important,” Jeff says. “If I’m not having fun I just don’t see why I would put in all the work to be sober.”
Connecting with other people in recovery is a great way to grow your community and try new activities this summer.
“Getting involved in the fellowship will also open doors to having fun in sobriety,” Jeff says. “Members of the program go on fishing trips camping trips and sporting events all summer long. When you are doing the deal and really working a solid program you won’t ever have to worry about how to explain why you’re sober.”
Asana Recovery offers residential and outpatient treatment in Costa Mesa, California. Learn more by calling 949-438-4504.