How To Work With Summer Triggers: Stay Safe and Sober
Summer is now in full effect. As the beginning of the season coincided with the lifting of lockdown restrictions, everyone is scrambling to catch as much fun in the sun as they can. Barbecues, outdoor parties, beach days, festivals – summer is full of fun social activities.
However, summer can also be a difficult time to go through for people who struggle with addiction. The season is full of potential relapse triggers, with many activities including drinking or using recreational drugs. Statistics point to a spike in alcohol consumption among Americans during the summer, which translates into a jump in relapses during this time.
While the summer can be a tough season to navigate for people with addictions, there are systems and methods you can rely on that can help you in avoiding summer triggers and staying sober – or managing them if they do occur.
What are Triggers?
Addiction triggers are thoughts, feelings, memories, basically psychological stimuli that can cause cravings to resurface. Triggers can appear in a variety of forms – a conflict, being alone, something sad happening, events, smells, places, people, tastes, music, or even memories.
During summer, the chances of coming in contact with or experiencing triggers are significantly increased. Why? Because summer is traditionally a time of leisure. School’s out, people take vacations from their work, and the beautiful weather prompts people to go outside and socialize more. Chances are you’ll get invited to numerous parties, barbecues, multi-day festivals, or picnics. For most people, these events usually involve drinking and often substance use, too. You might meet friends from the period before your sobriety or go to places that may trigger memories of drug or alcohol use.
Substance and alcohol abuse are not the only problems people might face during the summer. The sheer amount of free time can also push people with a history of gambling or of gambling or sex addiction back into their old habits.
When navigating addiction, these events and moments are tough to experience without feeling the urge to partake again. Peer pressure is especially tricky to handle, as your friend group might directly or indirectly push you to drink. After all, alcohol is often an integral part of events such as parties and barbecues, and with nearly everyone around you drinking, it may seem almost impossible to resist. As such, you should be extra vigilant during the summer and work proactively to notice whether a specific event or person could be a trigger for you.
Healthy Outdoor Activities
Yes, parties and festivals play a huge part in what makes summer such a fun period. However, you can do many healthy outdoor activities that will help you get the most out of the beautiful weather without the risks of engaging in unhealthy behavior. Take this time to jog, hike, go mountain climbing, camp out in the woods, or just take long walks. Activities such as these have multiple health benefits as well. Clean air and physical activities are great for your body, while being out in nature can reduce stress and help with battling depression and anxiety. Of course, simply being outside is far from a cure-all for mental health issues, but it can still be a positive addition to your lifestyle.
Pick Social Events That Won’t Cause Cravings
Before a social event like a party Consider whether to go based on two factors: your vulnerability to use and whether the environment will be supportive of your choice not to use.
Ask yourself whether you could safely go through the whole event without drinking or consuming drugs? If a trigger does occur, do you feel like you will be able to handle it? Will you have sober friends around you to stop things from escalating? If the going gets tough, do you have a plan in place?
Secondly, take a look at how the event itself will look. Will there be drugs or alcohol present? Is it a type of event you can go through without partaking? Will the people there try to pressure you into taking anything or drinking? How easy would it be to leave immediately if you start feeling uncomfortable?
Find Sober Friends
In cases where your friends drink or use drugs around you, you might feel isolated with no one to turn to. Besides peer pressure itself, you can feel lonely at social events if everyone else is consuming something and there are no sober people around that you can turn to.
To avoid situations such as these, work towards befriending people that are sober or drink very rarely. Those who are also in recovery can make for a great friend group as well, as you can all empathize with each other about the struggles you’re going through.
Sober friends can act as a support group, provide companionship in triggering situations and help filter out peer pressure.
Of course, this does not mean that you should straight up ditch friends that drink or partake in drugs. However, you ought to diversify your circle to include someone to spend time with if you feel lonely and alienated when not drinking or partaking in substances at social events.
Another positive resource is the social support and help that comes from being a part of a community support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, or Alcoholics Anonymous. People share that these can be very helpful.
Manage Your Triggers If They Do Occur
Sometimes you’re bound to come in contact with triggering places, events, or people. No matter how much you plan things out, life is often unpredictable. If this occurs, you must have effective responses that will help you manage & release said triggers.
Some effective responses are:
- Have a friend you can always reach out to
- Practice Self-Care
- Have an exit plan for triggering situations
- Find ways to fill your time and take your mind off dark thoughts
- Do not hesitate to contact a professional for help
Seek Professional Help If You Need It
Seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of. Addiction of any kind is a serious issue, and we can’t always handle it on our own. Whenever you feel like the pressure is becoming too intense and you’re at risk of relapsing, contact us at 505-242-6988 or by clicking here.
Article by Milica Kostic
Edited by Daniel Blackwood