They are never more than a few seconds, but images of margaritas or a cold glass of white wine flash in my mind’s eye.
By now, my brain goes on autopilot to remind me of the reasons it’s not worth it to actually have one, but whether you are new to sobriety or have been alcohol-free for years, it’s worth having a strategy to stay sober in the summer.￼
Romance Vs Reality
There’s no chance you aren’t romanticizing this. What is the image in your head? For me, I picture myself in a sundress, at an outdoor café drinking white wine and laughing breezily with a girlfriend. It seems so pleasant. But here’s where I need to ask myself three things:
- How is this picture inaccurate?
- In reality – what happens next?
- What am I really looking for?
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
Ah, well I suppose in that scenario I am not 30 pounds heavier from all the extra calories I was ingesting from alcohol. My posture is not slumped from downing most of the bottle. I am not saying things I’d rather keep to myself due to lack of inhibitions.
And Then What Happens?
In terms of what happens next – in my fantasy I have a lovely time, drink 1-2 glasses of wine and then continue with my day kind of like it is now, I am productive, relaxed and happy.
But I know what really happens next. I would drink slightly more than is socially acceptable while out, and then pick up more wine on the way home.
I would spend the rest of the evening drinking and watching tv, getting more and more depressed. That doesn’t sound like as much fun. It’s definitely not the feeling I was looking for in my daydream.
In AA they call this strategy “playing the tape all the way through” and it’s a very effective deterrent. You could also call it “facing reality”. It may not be the reality for everyone, but I’ve repeated the experiment enough times, I know the result.
What’s The Vibe
What is it about my fantasy image that’s so appealing? It’s not necessarily the wine.
I’m not picturing myself alone on a couch with it… The appeal is the fun of the moment. The laughter with my friend, the comfort of a flowy dress and warm sun on my skin. The luxury of not having 1,000 things to do and obligations to meet.
Ding! Ding! Ding! Yup, I’m overwhelmed and need to relax. How can I do that ASAP? A bath later? Order in dinner so I don’t have to cook or clean up and use that time to read?
Beyond that, there’s no reason why I can’t make this happen (sans wine). I can ask my husband to watch my son (or call a babysitter) and arrange an early dinner out with a friend later in the week where we can eat outside. All the benefits of my daydream, none of the drama. I know I will have fun and wake up the next day glad I went, instead of full of regret.
Parties, And BBQs, And Weddings, Oh My!
One of the reasons staying sober in the summer seems more overwhelming is that there tend to be a lot more social events. People want to get out of the house more since it’s finally nice outside. The longer days make it easier to go out and do things, rather than huddle up at home trying to stay warm.
Still, looking at all the events as your calendar fills up, it can make it seem like summer is just one long drinking event.
Part of this is that you’ve skewed your thinking. Yes, there is usually alcohol at social events, but for most people, that is not the POINT of the event. The point is to get together with people you like and have fun!
So, before you head to each of these events, try the exercise above. Even if you initially picture it with a drink in your hand, figure out what else you are doing in that picture to have fun, and then reset your focus on that.
Have A Plan
Make like a Boyscout and be prepared.
What are you going to drink when you’re there? If it’s a party at someone’s house, I love to bring along some Q ginger beer (it’s spicy and not overly sweet – I order a 12-pack each month).
Or if it’s at an event, experiment to see what you like that feels fun. Cranberry and seltzer with lime has been a sober favorite for years, but you can also try more festive things – most places can make a virgin mojito. It gives you that fancy cocktail feeling without the brutal summer hangover you get from the extra dehydration.
The Buddy System
If at all possible, go with someone who knows you are sober and supports you.
Bonus points if they are sober too.
If not, tell a sober friend where you are going and let them know you might text them from the bathroom if you are finding it difficult. It’s amazing how five minutes of texting with someone who gets it can save you.
Make like a tree and get out of there
Sometimes it’s just too much. If you are not having fun or are feeling tempted, there is nothing wrong with making a gracious exit.
You do not have to tell the host the real reason. Fake a text that you have to get home or say you feel like you’re getting a migraine.
If you are going to the event with someone, explain beforehand that you may have to make a hasty exit. If they have a problem with that, take separate cars or agree to have one of you take a cab home if need be.
It will get easier with time, but I find there still comes a point at most parties where people start getting to a level of drunkenness that I don’t really want to be around. The pitch of the room gets louder and people get slightly more annoying, and you know it’s time to head out.
Oh, The Irony
I expected my first sober summer to be a downer. I figured I’d be uncomfortable and feel like I was missing out. The shocking thing was, it was one of the best summers I’d ever had!
I went out and had fun much more often, and did so many different exciting activities that I’d never had the energy for before.
I went to places I never thought to go because there wouldn’t be alcohol there.
This truly is a season of wonder. Don’t waste a minute of it under a haze or shutting out the sunshine against a hangover.
Now go out and have the best summer ever!
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