For many of us, the summer months bring out feelings of happiness and excitement. Kids get a break from school, a summer vacation may be in the works and there is plenty of time to be outdoors, playing sports or swimming in the pool. People look forward to the summer holidays and graduation parties that flood the calendar. There’s no doubt that alcohol is more available and acceptable, and for the majority of us, this doesn’t pose a problem. Yet for the recovering addict and their family, the summer months can be troubling.
Addiction never just touches the person who is abusing; instead, it affects everyone in the circle, such as friends, family members, coworkers and neighbors. Just as addiction never really goes away for the addict, it never goes away for the people around them. A spouse will always worry that her husband will start drinking heavily again; a mother will continue to carry the stress of having a daughter addicted to pain medication. The summer months place additional strain on these families, as this is a time when there is more alcohol around and more reasons to celebrate.
The River Source teaches our clients that they are not helpless victims in their addiction. While it’s essential that recovered addicts are always working hard at their recovery, there are many things they can do to continue staying sober while enjoying fulfillment. The same is true for family members; they are not powerless in the cycle of addiction. There are steps that families can take to manage the summer season and create a supportive environment for their loved one.
Have Realistic Expectations
Don’t expect that every summer gathering will go off without a hitch. When we have unrealistic expectations, we feel frustrated when things don’t go the way we planned. Instead, keep a rational attitude about what to expect so that you can be prepared for minor setbacks.
Make Communication a Priority
Communication is essential in any relationship, and it’s even greater when there is a recovering addict in the family. Don’t feel that you need to hide your loved one’s problem; this is actually the wrong thing to do because it can create feelings of isolation and defeat. Let extended family members and close friends know what’s going on so that they can be more aware of their behaviors. Keep the doors of communication open within the family unit to deal with negative emotions head-on.
Boundaries are necessary. Tell your loved one what you expect from them. No drinking at summer events. Zero tolerance for verbal abuse. A text message or phone call about their whereabouts. You’re living this life with them, too, and you deserve to have your rules followed.
Be Selective about Invites
During the summer, it’s one thing after another: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, graduation parties, summer festivals, concerts and more. Be selective about the invites you accept and who you invite over to your own home. If you know that a particular party will have lots of alcohol and roughly behavior, erase it from the list. Continued sobriety is most important at this point – the host will understand.
Make an Appearance
Since there are some gatherings you have to attend, teach your loved one the importance of making an appearance, and do the same. When people host summer parties, they want the respect of their guests attending. There’s no reason why you can’t show up late and leave early, thus dodging most of the drinking and late-night behaviors.
Celebrate with 12-Step Members
If you find the summer holidays being stressful for your loved one, encourage them to invite members from their 12-step meetings to summer barbecues or picnics. This built-in support system can be very helpful during the holiday season, and your loved one can be comfortable in their own skin. Really, there is no one better to celebrate with than those who truly understand what you’re going through.
Have a Backup Plan
As you deal with addiction, you’ll learn that having a solid backup plan is useful in all contexts. You and your loved one should know how you plan to handle an unfortunate circumstance, whether it’s coming face-to-face with temptation or managing a craving. Be available and enlist a few other family members or close friends that can offer fast, on-demand support such as a quick chat or ride home.
The summer is a time for strengthening the bond between us and nature and relaxing with family and friends. Let these be the motivators for a beautiful summer season and leave the drinking and partying to others. While it takes constant hard work to stay on the right track, sobriety is made easier and more possible with an understanding support system along for the ride.