I love the fall, and I still get a little sad when it arrives; it means winter—with its shorter, darker days—is approaching. I love the smells and the crisp weather, Halloween and pumpkin carving. But fall can also be hard, especially for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Each season brings its own challenges for those of us in recovery, but they all have advantages too.
If you’re looking to get sober, fall is actually a great time to start. It represents both a return back to normal schedules—though “normal” obviously looks very different during COVID-19—and a season of change.
In summer, schedules tend to be a little looser. Kids are off from school and adults take vacations. In the autumn, people typically return to their routines, but the world around them changes. The leaves change color; a new school year begins. It’s an advantageous time to start a new routine of recovery.
Getting sober earlier in the fall also gives you time to acclimate before the winter holidays. Those holidays, which are often heavily centered on booze, can be hard for people in early recovery. Having some sobriety under your belt will give you time to prepare—even if that means letting people know you won’t make it to the holiday party this year. Or discovering your favorite non-alcoholic drink to bring to the party.
Fall weather is perfect for outdoor adventures—not too hot, not too cold—which is always helpful, but especially in early recovery. I’ve written about how I consider weekly hikes with a friend my first few months sober crucial to my recovery.
Being in nature can promote calm when you’re stressed. It can connect you to something larger than yourself. Even if these lofty goals feel out of reach, we all need Vitamin D. The ability to go outside is especially helpful during COVID-19, when much of connecting with others is safest outside.
I’ve found so many autumn joys in sobriety that I never would have considered in active addiction. I love hot drinks like chai tea or hot chocolate on a chilly autumn day. Before I got sober, I would have just been drinking alcohol. I love going to farms and smelling the cinnamon and apple cider and pumpkin; I would have been too distracted to notice these scents when I was thinking about how to get booze into the apple cider.
I used to skip dinner to maximize the alcohol’s impact, but now in the fall I get excited about hearty soups. I love having the foresight to plan Halloween costumes.
That said, even if you’ve been sober a while, it’s okay if you struggle in the fall. If this season is difficult for you, you might take some time in early fall to write down a list of coping skills you’ve built during your time sober.
In times of stress, it’s helpful to have something already written down. Stress consumes a lot of energy; having a list takes the pressure off to rack your brain for ways to make it through.
Wherever you are in your recovery, including thinking about getting sober, fall is a good time to take inventory and make changes. It invites us to switch up our routines—and then to hunker down and settle into those routines.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers across the country provide high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders. Our staff will help you build the coping skills to make it through all the seasons sober. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.