The prediction that this summer may feel closer to “normal” as more Americans get vaccinated is exciting for many. But for people in early recovery, it might be anxiety-provoking.
My sober date is August 1st, but I planned to quit a month in advance. This was for a number of practical reasons, but a small one was wanting to squeeze in as much summer “partying” as I could.
Being Wasted Isn’t Fun
For many people, summer partying is inextricable with using substances; there’s a deeply ingrained idea that you can’t let loose or have fun without doing so. It’s what I thought at first. But if you count that first August, this will be my seventh sober summer, and that worry has proven to be unfounded.
One of the great things about summer is how many hours we have of daylight. This makes for long daytime celebrations that bleed into the night, especially on holidays like July 4th. I’ve found these parties much more fun sober. I’m actually present to enjoy them. Literally though—if you’re drinking or using any kind of depressant all day, it’s likely you’ll struggle to stay awake by early evening.
Either way, as the day goes on and you get more intoxicated, you start to feel sick or sad or angry. It’s very difficult to maintain any good or “high” feelings you had at the beginning of the day. Sober, I’ve found that I don’t have to worry about any of this. I can just be where I am and enjoy my friends.
Mourning the Change
That said, knowing this intellectually doesn’t always mean you feel it emotionally. You might feel nervous attending events this summer or miss the absence of substances.
First, it’s okay to grieve drug or alcohol use. It really is a loss—on the emotional and physiological level. During active addiction, your brain comes to rely on substances and decreases dopamine receptors in response. It takes some time to reach a new balance. Getting sober is also a profound change in your life and how you see yourself; any change like that can bring grief, even if you know it’s good for you.
Preparing to Go Out Sober
If you’re anxious about events this summer, I’ve found it helpful to have a plan. Reach out to a supportive person in advance to see if they can be “on call” for you. If you have a sober friend, see if they’ll come along. Make sure to bring your favorite non-alcoholic drink. Feeling like you’re part of the festivities is sometimes as simple as having a drink to hold.
Check in with yourself before the event; see if the pros of going (for instance, feeling connected, overcoming restlessness, engaging in healthy distraction) outweigh your anxieties. If you aren’t ready, that doesn’t mean you won’t be when the next party comes around. It’s summer; there will most likely be another event soon.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help available. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build a great life in recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.