Like the winter holidays, summertime can be another difficult time during recovery, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many ways to avoid common pitfalls during the beach season. It is important to not become complacent during the summer and to keep recovery at the forefront of the mind. Remember that addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease that requires vigilance and commitment to manage.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates that over 20 million Americans suffered from addiction in 2014. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available to support people in recovery. Local community-based programs may offer support services, aftercare programs, and relapse prevention tools during the summer. There are also many websites and online forums to support the recovery community that are accessible no matter how far from home a person is. Counselors, therapists, and addiction treatment specialists may be able to provide additional resources for maintaining sobriety while on vacation and during the summer.
Keep Making Recovery a Priority
Recovery is ongoing, so it is still important to remain consistent during the summer even when it can feel like vacation time. Keep going to therapy and counseling appointments like usual. Attend support group meetings, and if going out of town on vacation, research local meetings. Consider going to more meetings than normal if needed. It can be fun to try out meetings in new places and meet new people. Regular attendance at 12-Step support group meetings can help to reduce instances of relapse and enhance sustained recovery, the journal Social Work and Public Health reports.
Take your current support system with you by keeping phone numbers of important people like mentors handy. Reach out to friends and family when needed, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when and if sticky situations arise. Feel free to excuse yourself from a party or summer BBQ if it becomes overwhelming. Consider planning your own sober events instead.
Many recovery programs have apps or web-based resources that can be accessed anywhere in the world. Talk to counselors, therapists, and medical providers about any concerns and/or advice for vacation time. Surround yourself with positive people and make sober plans.
Addiction treatment programs often have alumni support programs that graduates can participate in. These programs may have many different events or activities going on during the summer and throughout the year where you can socialize with others who are also in recovery. Isolation is a big component that can lead to relapse. During recovery, the more time spent with others who are understanding or have similar goals, the better.
Stick to Healthy Eating, Sleeping, and Exercise Patterns
Summertime can be a time of little structure and lazy days; however, in recovery, it is important to stick to a schedule as much as possible. Planned eating, sleeping, and exercise times can help to keep you on track and moving forward.
Eating balanced and nutritious meals while on vacation during the summer season may require more planning and thinking ahead. Pack picnics or eat before going to the neighbor’s BBQ or party, so you can focus on proper nutrition. Try not to let yourself get hungry either, as this can lead to cravings and poor choices. Serve yourself in order to maintain control over personal intake and minimize difficulties with what may be in front of you. A healthy diet can also go a long way toward enhancing recovery by helping to improve mental health and minimize potential cravings.
Just as it is any time of year, getting the right amount of sleep is vital to sustaining recovery. It is much easier to make good decisions, fight off cravings, and minimize episodes of relapse when you are well-rested. Healthy amounts of sleep promote emotional strength and health as well as physical wellbeing.
Exercise is another great way to support recovery, and the summer weather and beachfront offer many opportunities to get outside and get moving. The journal Frontiers in Psychiatry reports that exercise can serve as positive reinforcement, thus helping to reduce cravings and drug use. When you engage in physical fitness activities, positive changes occur with brain chemistry that make a person feel good. Also as physical health improves, so do self-esteem and confidence levels.
Exercise can reduce stress and tension as well as relieve anxiety and depression while improving quality of sleep. It also serves to keep a person busy and occupy the mind. Instead of just “hanging out” on the beach, consider trying one of the following:
- Go for a walk or run on the beach.
- Organize a game of beach volleyball, soccer, or Frisbee.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Rent paddleboards, surfboards, boogie boards, or other equipment to use on the water.
- Hike along the beach or in local wildlife or nature preserves.
- Take up sailing, kayaking, canoeing, or other forms of boating.
- Go snorkeling.
- Ride horses on the beach.
Different beaches and locations are likely to have a wide range of activities to choose from. Look into them ahead of time so you can plan to stay busy.
Visit Sober Beaches and Schedule Activities
It can be helpful to avoid locations, people, and things that are reminiscent of your drug-using days in order to reduce relapse and prevent cravings. It may be beneficial to find new summer hangouts, beaches, and places to go.
Within the Rhode Island, public state beaches do not allow alcohol or smoking, which can help to cut down on potential temptations. The following is a list of Rhode Island beaches where alcohol is prohibited:
- Charlestown Breachway
- East Beach
- East Matunuck State Beach
- Misquamicut State Beach
- North and South Scarborough State Beaches
- Roger W. Wheeler State Beach
- Salty Brine State Beach
- Barrington Town Beach
- Spring Lake Beach and Arcade
- Third Beach
- Second Beach/Sachuest Town Beach
- Blue Shutters Town Beach
- Mackerel Cove/ Jamestown Town Beach
- Charlestown Town Beach
- South Kingstown Town Beach at Matunuck
- Narragansett Town Beach
Plan sober activities to do at the beach while taking in the natural beauty. Consider participating in creative outlets. Write poetry, sculpt, paint, draw, listen to music, play music, build a sandcastle, or journal while surrounded by the beauty of the sun, sand, and waves. Art and creative expression can be therapeutic for those in recovery, and the setting can add to the rejuvenating benefits.. Yoga and mindfulness meditation can be performed on the beach or anywhere. Fly a kite or visit one of the many lighthouses that dot the northeastern coast.
Plan your own sober summer activities, picnics, and BBQs, and invite others to join you. If you do attend a party or summer event thrown by someone else, and there is going to be alcohol present, bring a sober friend who can support you in resisting the urge to have “just one,” and don’t be afraid to leave if needed.
There are many ways to have a great summer at the beach in Rhode Island while staying sober. You don’t have to miss out on fun just because you aren’t using or drinking.