Six tips for staying sober this summer

picnic.jpgToday we feature a guest blog post from Trevor McDonald, a writer and recovering addict living in San Diego, CA, who offers his unique perspective on drug and alcohol addiction and the challenges faced by those who are trying to keep alcohol out of their lives this summer.

As humans, we are creatures of habit. Your friend suggests meeting at your favorite restaurant and it’s about 1.2 seconds before you’re craving the pasta puttanesca. It’s what you always get, and at this point, there’s somewhat of an emotional attachment.

Cravings for drugs and alcohol work in much the same way, and that’s why summer barbecues can be especially tricky for recovering alcoholics.

When you picture summers at the beach or at backyard barbecues, you probably imagine a cooler filled with beer within reach.

For recovering alcoholics, it’s not just a problem to see the alcohol in person. Much like your craving for the pasta puttanesca, anticipation and desire begin long before the event. There’s an emotional attachment to drinking with friends at summer parties.

Fortunately, there are some great work-arounds for you to use. It starts with breaking your unhealthy emotional attachments and forming new ones.

  1. Acknowledge the craving for what it is. Cravings are a normal part of recovery. Your desire to have a drink isn’t something to be ashamed of, and it doesn’t mean you’re about to relapse. It simply means you’re human.
  2. Don’t succumb to triggers. For some people, especially those who are new to recovery, the desire to drink in certain situations is too great to overcome. For example, you may not be able to stop yourself when your friends are standing by the pool and everyone is cracking open a beer. If that’s the case, avoid the situation entirely. It’s better to decline politely than to relapse. Know that you may one day be happy in that situation with a root beer in hand.
  3. Stick with a friend. You don’t need to drag a sponsor to every event, but try to go with someone who knows your struggle and desire to stay sober. This person may help keep you away from situations that may trigger you. At the very least, knowing someone is watching may help keep you on the right path.
  4. BYO non-alcoholic beverage. If you’re going to a pool party or backyard barbecue, bring a non-alcoholic beverage that you truly enjoy. Maybe an ice-cold lemonade will do the trick, or maybe it’s a fancy tropical mocktail. Experiment with a combination of seltzers, juices, and teas to come up with something healthy to crave.
  5. Get active. Give yourself other reasons to avoid drinking. For example, maybe you’re training for a marathon or a 5k. It doesn’t have to be extreme, but when you align yourself with healthier goals, it’s easier to say no to alcohol. It becomes more about your good health and less about deprivation.
  6. Hang with a different crowd. There’s no need to shun supportive friends just because they have an occasional drink, but if the people you hang with are drunk more often than not, it’s time to run with a new crowd. Look for other recovering alcoholics or people who have healthier relationships with alcohol. They’re less likely to want to meet up at a bar, and things become much easier when that temptation is removed.

The feeling of missing out is what so many recovering alcoholics struggle with in the summertime. But with a little advanced planning and a slight adjustment to your way of thinking, you’ll get through these months with your sobriety intact.

Editor’s note: Find more information on alcoholism in the WPS Health Center. Search “alcoholism” for more than 80 informative resources.

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