According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, youth ages 12-17 are more likely to try substances for the first time in June and July. This might be due to having more free time and less parental supervision. Still, each season comes with its own risks for addiction.
I’ve written on this blog before about how in early July 2015, I made a plan to get sober August 1st. And I did get sober August 1st—I didn’t think I could postpone it any longer—but I felt a sense of loss that I’d be “missing” some of summer.
When you’re newly sober and unaccustomed to life in recovery, it can feel like you’re missing out on a celebratory season. In the summer, people take booze-y vacations, drink on beaches, and have alcohol-heavy cookouts. It might be different this year due to COVID-19, but I’d imagine this is one area that won’t be affected too much by the pandemic. We can still go outside—which is where a lot of summer drinking happens anyway.
I wasn’t missing out, for a lot of reasons, but let’s consider the practical ones. My body couldn’t handle drinking in the sun all day. I would feel sick by 4 or 5pm. If I wasn’t feeling sick, I would pass out at that time. Whichever combination of those scenarios, when the sun rose the next day I’d have some of the worst hangovers I can remember.
When I was preparing for summer parties, I used to wonder how I would get home when I inevitably couldn’t keep my head up, wonder how I would stay awake or cognizant when I inevitably wanted to keep “having fun.” I don’t have to think about these things now.
It’s much harder to take advantage of the extra daylight when you’ve been drinking in the sun all day. It’s so nice that it stays light until nearly 9pm in the summer. And there’s something about summer nights that are unlike any other time. But even if you don’t pass out at 5PM, you cannot be present for them if substances are taking away your cognizance. Unexpectedly, I’ve been much more able to enjoy summer in sobriety.
Another thing I thought that July was: what about cracking open a cold beer on a hot summer day? We are inundated with advertisements and other media—including social media—that make beer seem like the most refreshing summer drink possible. But when you were a kid, you probably didn’t drink beer. You probably did drink cold beverages though.
Summer in sobriety has helped me rediscover childhood pleasures like lemonade and iced tea. There is a sense of freedom and play that seems to be associated with summer in the media, especially when you’re a kid. Recently I sat in a friends’ yard (with social distancing measures, of course) and ate a popsicle. That is something that never would have even crossed my mind when I was in active addiction. I hadn’t done that since I was a kid.
When you are sober, you are literally freer. A lot of active addiction is spent worrying—about when you will next have access to the substance, how you will stay safe if you get too drunk or high, how you will get home, who is angry or upset with you, what might happen if you black out, etc. etc. etc. When you’re sober, summer can be a lot more fun—fun that you will actually remember later.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder this summer, there is hope. TruHealing Centers is open throughout the COVID-19 crisis, with hospital-grade sanitization and telehealth options. At our recovery centers across the country, we will come up with an individualized and comprehensive plan—including relapse and aftercare plans—so that you can stay sober through every season. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.