By Maggie Young
As the world re-opens after months of feeling isolated and disconnected there will likely be strong desires to engage in celebratory events over the summer. Summer fun could be a challenge for those in early recovery. A personal commitment, support from others and diligence is important for sustained recovery. I recall how much time and energy I wasted concocting reasons not to join family and friends for gatherings such as a barbecue, beach day or other family events during the summer months for fear of being triggered to drink. When gathered the majority of my time I spent pondering and plotting ways to steal away for a quick drink without anyone noticing. The energy that was required to appear present with love ones, while pre-occupied with how to get the first drink was exhausting. That first drink always led to seven or eight more and days and weeks later sheer remorse, guilt and shame.
My addiction consistently called for 100% of my time and attention while my heart yearned to be enjoying the company of those whom I love and love me.
I know things now that I did not know before landing in recovery; one realization is that gatherings during summer months triggered me to want to drink and use other drugs more than any other time of year. Summertime meant the three B’s, Beach, Barbecue and Beer. The smell of charcoal and lighter fluid, crackling flames, taste of grilled food, cooler filled with ice and beverages, sound of a cap popping from a bottle, hissing sound as a beer can was opened, were all par to the course and seemed like fun for some, yet not for everyone.
During the summer, fun and laughter is typically present and consistent; however, there may be one or two individuals fighting to be present, where laughter and fun is absent. Present is fear that departure would mean being judged and labeled uninterested, disrespectful and selfish. However, that same individual may be experiencing anxiety because their insides are rapidly peaking and dipping while the struggle to be present where their feet are out weights where their head is, which is in a totally different place. A place where they long to escape and consume alcohol to settle their nerves, if only long enough to murmur a few words and to appear connected while their mind remains in the far distance. Never quite where their feet are, never quite present always distant, distracted and preoccupied.
The COVID19 pandemic in 2020, forced us all to dig deep into our reserve for sustainability and to maintain mental, physical, emotional and social health, and to add another layer the daily task to stay sober.
Walking into summer 2021 it is important to be prepared to do consistent work in order to be sober. Those who have not begun their recovery process, wants-to-want to be sober and/or are in early recovery may not know where to begin or how to proceed. You and I may be the start for someone who is in pre-sobriety or have a desire to start his or her recovery process, the window of opportunity only last a short time. Offer a supportive word or gesture, it may go a long way and save a life.
Prior to the COVID19 pandemic, the recovery community relied heavily on in-person meetings for connection, fellowship with one another, and spirituality as a foundation with consistent reminders that we were/are not alone. That reliance is crucial, the need for love and support, a non-judgmental listening ear, and stern hand to hold, as well as someone to lean on during times of need. Each decision to be sober requires the following ingredients; commitment, motivation, hard work and resources including peer supports and a spiritual foundation. Although the world is re-opening, there are still individuals who fear returning to in-person meetings and remain isolated and afraid to ask for or accept support, another ingredient that is required to be sober. To that end I challenge US all to be supportive, open our heart and mind and push beyond any belief (real or fancied) that someone else will be a sober champion so we do not need to.
Let us not wait until we see someone in crisis to act, we can all be a HERO or SHERO to someone who is struggling this summer. What if you are the missing ingredient, May all who choose, experience a SAFE, SOBER SUMMER!
Maggie Young, MSW, LADC, Chief Recovery Officer at Liberation Programs, Inc.