How To Enjoy Social Events and Stay Sober this Summer

by Juliane Soprano

The summertime and the many celebrations that accompany it can be full of temptations for recovering addicts. The summer is a popular season for vacations, weddings, BBQs, parties on the lake, family gatherings, and other outdoor events.  According to Psychology Today, many recovering alcoholics report that the warm weather and summer events remind them of the “good ole days,” which is really just a romanticized version of their drinking days and is a real threat to their sobriety. Avoiding a relapse while enjoying your summer social events is possible if you follow a few helpful tips.

The Party Plan

Know that attending just a portion of the event is acceptable. If you think you can only handle two hours, then plan to stick to this time limit. Don’t be afraid to leave an event early. Have an exit strategy in case you need to leave earlier than expected. You can make plans that occur near the end time of the event, so you can tell the host that you will attend, but must leave for something else. For example, schedule to walk your neighbor’s dog. Then you will feel an obligation to leave so that you can take care of the dog. Another option is to have a friend call you at a specific time to see how you’re doing, and if you need to leave, you can say a friend needs help.

When you go to an event bring someone along who supports your sobriety. Tell the person to give you a nudge if you begin behaving in a concerning way or if they see a potential for a trigger. Perhaps your friend can ask you to go outside with them as a cue to step away from the situation. If you must attend the event alone or can’t find any to go with you, arrange to have a friend you can rely on to answer your call during any point of the event. This person can give you a pep talk and allow you to take a brief break from the event for fresh air.

Rehearse a script to say to people who offer you a drink or drug. Even if you politely decline, some people can push. Although you can say you don’t drink for health reasons, you really don’t owe anyone an explanation and can simply walk away. Everyday Health recommends setting up a bookend support system. Before and after the event, attend a meeting so that the meetings are bookends for the event. If you cannot attend two meetings, have the same bookend support with planned telephone calls to a supportive friend.

Throughout the Summer

Just as you can leave an event early, you can also choose to not attend the event at all, especially if you know you’ll be highly tempted to drink or do drugs. Although you may feel obligated to attend the event, you really are under no obligation to put the event before your sobriety and health. You can explain to the host why you can’t attend, or just say you already have plans. If you can’t attend, offer to spend time with your friends later to make up for missing the event, ensuring it’s an event that doesn’t involve alcohol or drugs.

Practice stress reduction techniques during the summer to avoid relapse. Some exercises provide an immediate reduction in stress, so consider partaking in them before or after the event you attend. Jogging, riding a bike, dancing, and walking are all exercises known to immediately reduce stress. Yoga, meditation, and massages are also immediate stress reducers.

Social events can be temptations for recovering addicts. However, if you focus on the positive opportunities provided by social events, it can help you avoid temptations and focus on enjoying yourself while staying sober. Use the social event as a way to connect with others, meet new people, and enjoy the moment. If you feel tempted, just walk away and leave the event. Having a plan in place will help you resist temptations and avoid a relapse while also having an enjoyable time with friends and family.

In support of Alcohol Awareness, we’d like to thank Michelle Peterson for providing this article. Contact her at michelle@recoverypride.org  or for more information visit Recoverypride.org