Written by Geoff Ingram, Edgewood alumnus and employee.
Summer can be a difficult time in sobriety, but it can also be a great time to be alive. Whether it’s boating, camping, or BBQs, it’s great to spend time outdoors with people whom we love. The challenge, however, is that in the past, these were often situations where we would drink or use substances. So, here are some tips and tricks for avoiding relapse and staying in recovery while enjoying the summer BBQ season.
(1) Have Your Own Ride
Don’t be the designated driver or catch a lift with someone else if you can help it. Having your own wheels and not having to wait on others means you aren’t stuck there if you decide you want to, or need to, leave.
(2) Have an Escape Plan
This goes along with (1)—make sure you have a plan for getting out. “I’ll come, but I may need to duck out early” or “please don’t take it personally if I leave without saying goodbye,” can help manage your host’s expectations, and give you the freedom to leave at any time for any reason. Give yourself permission to leave without talking to anyone if that’s what you feel you need to do.
(3) Set Time Limits
We’ve all been there: as the party drags on, people start to get more and more intoxicated. Let the host know you can only be there for a couple of hours before you have to go to another engagement. Whether or not you have somewhere else to be, ducking out before things get tipsy can help make things feel less awkward.
(4) Bring a Friend
I use this one all the time. Who better to hang out with than a sponsor or friend in recovery? Then you know you’re not alone in not drinking, and have someone to hang out with if you need it. I went with my sponsor to his 50th birthday party, not that he needed me, but just in case. Ask the host if you can bring a friend, and then bring someone in your recovery circle.
(5) Tell Someone Where You’re Going
If nobody is available to go with you, let someone in recovery know where you’re going and how long you plan on being there. Ask them if you can check in with them on your way home, and then make sure to follow up. Accountability is everything in recovery and setting that up for yourself will set you up for success.
(6) Bring Your Own Drinks
Make sure you have something fun to drink by pre-mixing a mocktail of your choice. Throw some fruit, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice and sparkling water into a mason jar or add ginger-beer and mint with Sprite or Fresca. That will definitely cool you down on a hot summer day. When in doubt, pop, water, or ice coffee work too. There’s no end to how big, or how small you can go with your mocktail, the only limit is your imagination.
(7) Have a Snack Beforehand
There’s nothing worse than showing up at a BBQ and expecting food, only to have to wait several hours until everything’s ready. Having a snack before you go will make sure you don’t get “hangry” at any point in the evening. If you show up and there’s food there ready to go, great—but if not, you’ll be okay for a while.
(8) Try to Be Well Rested
During the BBQ season, the days are long, the sun is out, and we try to pack as much into each day as possible. You looked after “L for lonely” by bringing a friend, and you’re no longer “H for hungry” because you had a snack. Take the care of the “T for tired” (from the HALT acronym) by making sure you’re well rested. Get a good night’s sleep the night before, or have a nap prior to heading out. When we’re well rested we’re also less likely to get angry (the remaining “A”). We tend to be more calm and are able to handle things that come at us sideways. Making sure you’re well rested is a great way to reduce the chances of being tempted.
(9) Host Your Own Event
Instead of heading over to someone else’s house, try hosting your own, sober BBQ. BYOM (bring your own meat) or a potluck are great ways to share the load, then you can offer to supply the drinks. That way everybody can drink mocktails or soft drinks to their hearts’ content. I tend to look ahead at the calendar—if I know I have the anniversary of the death of a family member, or another tragic event, I make sure I’m surrounded by people in recovery by hosting at my place. It’s hard to be alone in a room full of fellowship.
(10) Try Something New
Many BBQs I used to attend when I was drinking had the same routine—so how about shaking things up? Bring a bocce set, a frisbee, a football, or whatever! Canadian Tire or Walmart have tons of summer outdoor games that are fun and affordable. I was at a BBQ last summer and somebody showed up with “Spikeball.” It was a blast, and things got competitive in a hurry.
(11) Have a Response Ready in Case You Get Offered a Drink
“I have an allergic reaction to alcohol—every time I drink I end up in handcuffs!” Whether you choose the comedy route, or a more serious one, have a prepared response for when someone offers you a drink. “I’m not drinking right now,” “I’m driving,” “I’ve found I feel much better without alcohol,” are just a handful of ones I’ve heard. If you feel comfortable, “I don’t drink, I’m an alcoholic” has always worked for me.
(12) Avoid Triggering Individuals and Toxic People
We all have those friends: every time we get together, we drink or use together. Or there’s the past partner in our social circle who gets us into a spiral every time we see them. Maybe it’s time to take a break from those people for a little while—or at least in situations where they are drinking or using.
The summer BBQ season should be a joyful time to laugh and connect with others. There’s no need to deprive ourselves of these simple pleasures. With a bit of prior planning we can enjoy the BBQ tour season.
When in Doubt, Reach Out
There’s always someone at Edgewood or Bellwood if you need to talk, 24/7.