On Summer Substance Abuse: Staying Solid in Your Recovery

As plentiful sunshine and chaotic spring weather finally begin to hit a full year after COVID descended on the United States, young adults in recovery from drugs or alcohol as well as staff at addiction treatment centers know that a pandemic is not the only safety concern: upcoming summer is prime time for drug abuse and substance use disorders.

Overdoses had already been increasing before the pandemic hit. And according to available data from the CDC, over 88,000 overdose deaths in the United States are estimated from September 2019 to August 2020—the largest 12-month overdose death rate of all time. The horrifying world of addiction is relentlessly descending on people faster than ever.

While the holidays are known to cause an uptick in depression and suicide, people instead come out to play in the warmer months, and they take their party favors with them. It’s recommended that people significantly increase their drug or alcohol prevention efforts, if needed, toward the end of spring (Palamar et al. 949). Especially for people newly in recovery, summers of sobriety can be plain tough if substance abuse is a big personal concern.

Sobering Consequences of Summer

Whether it’s smoking marijuana out on the stoop, drug-taking at concerts, or imbibing prescription drugs recreationally, it’s almost common knowledge that partying increases in the warmer weather. This is even more cause for concern in 2021 as medical emergencies inevitably rise not only for potentially diminished pandemic fear and the shirking of standard precautions from a false sense of vaccine security, but the so-called “normal” drug- or alcohol-related events that surge in the summer months.

A medical emergency can swiftly follow a first-time dose—or the first dose in a while—of drugs or alcohol. And according to six years’ worth of data (2011–2017) from National Surveys on Drug Use and Health of nearly 400,000 people aged 12 and up, even the first-time use of marijuana, cocaine, LSD, or ecstasy was significantly more likely to be in the summer compared to other seasons.

With all the apparent drug and alcohol slip-ups related to summer, it logically follows that exposure and temptation will be higher. It also makes sense to engage in a bit of extra preparation to maintain your recovery.

Staying Clean for the Long Term

Keeping your recovery at the forefront doesn’t have to mean a “boring” summer. Planning ahead and prioritizing the activities that are truly meaningful to you could lead to the upcoming sunny season being your favorite yet. Following are some reminders on how you can have an amazing experience with summertime sobriety.

Engage in activities that make you feel like your best self.

Taking drugs or alcohol may be strongly associated with certain activities (and you should try to be very aware of the connections), but it’s an activity in itself, too. Most of the time, you can’t just make cuts to your routine and expect to not miss something beneficial you were getting out of those experiences, even if they were ultimately damaging your life and health.

Before summer hits, it’s a great idea to discover or rediscover hobbies and activities that you find to be genuinely fun and aren’t going to make you dwell on something you’re lacking.

Stick with your recovery plan and community.

As humans, social connection is paramount to our well-being, but we can get that without the false sense of community or friendship that drugs and alcohol can bring. It’s as important as ever to stay in touch with your sponsor or friends who embrace the sober lifestyle with you. Having an outline for your fun (for the night or for the long term) as well as a couple of people you can call if you’re really struggling can help immensely.

Notice rumination before it gets worse.

Rumination is being stuck in a repetitive thought cycle. The bothersome thoughts tend to be negative and incredibly difficult to break from. Rumination also leads to substance abuse and is common in comorbid occurring disorders like depression and anxiety. If you don’t have specific coping mechanisms or recovery resources that help you deal with rumination, it’s time to get some and to have that information ready at a moment’s notice when “healthy habits” are the last things on your mind.

Cultivate tunnel vision for your own happiness and peace.

If you have already been through a drug treatment program or spent any time in rehab center meetings, you are probably familiar with these concepts already—but it doesn’t mean you don’t need to give yourself reminders frequently, if not daily.

On that note, the minutes or hour before heading out or seeing friends is a key time to reacquaint yourself with why you are in recovery or how much better your life is without drugs or alcohol. Worrying about how beautiful your new life is going to be is the perfect way to not get too caught up with what others might be doing or discussing.

Know which specific events—or people—to pass up.

You probably know those situations where urges to use drugs or alcohol can be absolutely overwhelming. Humans already experience “decision fatigue” with choices like what to eat for dinner—don’t let yourself think for a moment that a raging party or catching up with friends at a bar is going to be much easier this time around.

If the event involves people with drug or alcohol addiction (whether they realize and acknowledge it or not) or friends that can’t or won’t be mindful of your recovery and your needs, it makes a lot of sense to just politely decline.

Don’t be ashamed of needing help again.

It never hurts to know your available treatment options, no matter the stage in your recovery. In fact, it’s something to be proud of if you know when it’s time to seek help again, especially if it’s before a relapse (but even if it’s after).

While an inpatient treatment program might seem like too much the second or third time around, it depends on your situation as well as the substance. If you are attending outpatient treatment or meetings at a drug rehab center for the season or for the long term, the consistency can turn out to be better for you than going at it alone and risking caving.

Especially in our younger years, we can underestimate the swiftness and strength with which we can find ourselves with a substance use disorder or engaging in drug abuse again, even if we have already received drug treatment in the past. But just a little extra preparation can lead to a summer that’s unbelievable—and just so happens to be sober.

Are you looking for drug rehab centers in NJ? Seeking addiction treatment doesn’t have to be a hardship during an already difficult time. Addiction Treatment Group is available 24 hours a day to help you or your loved one get their life back. Make your recovery the top priority at a drug and alcohol treatment center near you. Call us today at (888)-972-8513.

  • NIDA. “First time drug use more common in summertime.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1 Aug. 2019.

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