What is it about summertime that begs for parties, drinks, and high times? Some love summer because of the great weather, and others embrace more free time and traveling. For many people, summer brings to mind beers on a boat, Bob Marley and a joint on the beach, rolling on Ecstasy in the front row at a music festival show. The truth is, your summer boat party doesn’t require alcohol or drugs anymore than your winter bonfire will.
Summertime has become associated with partying because our culture loves to party in general. This may be alright for those people who can use substances safely, but it is a threat to the livelihood of people like myself who are in recovery from addiction. Why does fun and partying have to imply drugs and alcohol? The essence of a party is fun, friends, and celebration – and that’s just what we can do with our sober summer.
Here are some ways to have fun this summer, that can also help keep you sober:
Get Outside & Get Active
For me, the beach or camping trips or just days by the pool always had to be accompanied with the proper amount of drugs. What I couldn’t see then: all of that intoxication actually robbed me of the beauty of those experiences, and left me with very few memories.
Mother Nature is full of color, wonder, and grandeur – just consider all of the different flowers in a forest, or the enormity of the ocean. Getting high or drunk only numbs us to these experiences and we can’t soak in the beauty of the details. When we connect with nature as sober people, we can appreciate all of its amazing nuances and awaken our senses. There’s a healthy rush that comes with exploring the outdoors, which can take away some of the stress of our daily lives.
On a biological level, there are huge health benefits to soaking in some sun and getting your dose of vitamin D. It can help promote health of your bones and skin, fight off colds and diseases, and even ease the weight of depression. Nature’s beauty can bring us joy, along with the mood-elevation that vitamin D can bring! For many of us in recovery, this boost in our mood can help us maintain sobriety.
Ultimately, getting outside means we are getting active. Maybe you like to run, bike, or hike, and maybe you like to surf, swim, or kayak – however you like to get active, go for it! Exercise can elevate mood as well, because our body releases natural painkillers called endorphins when we are under extreme physical stress. Endorphins activate our opioid receptors, the same receptors activated by opiate and opioid drugs but in healthier amounts. Getting yourself moving and breaking a sweat can actually induce the same kind of euphoria as narcotic painkillers, but without the same risks.
Be a Kid Again
Kids are masters of fun, no matter the time or place. Every tree is an opportunity for climbing, every blank wall is begging for paint, all of the candy in the store must be eaten. Kids are in touch with their curiosity and the ability to revel in small pleasures – you could say they’re always high on life, no need for drugs or alcohol.
This summer, get your hands dirty and bring arts-and-crafts back to life. Whether it’s a coloring book and crayons, finger paints, or even cooking an awesome meal, engage your brain and get creative. A hobby can be a healthy way to stay busy, and really getting involved in a hands-on task can put our brains into a state of “creative flow”. In this flow state, our brain waves slow down, we lose all sense of time and self, and we let go of our everyday stresses. Much like meditation, creativity can be a way to center ourselves, which helps us stay sober – and it’s just plain fun.
Kids also know the value of a good treat, whether it’s an ice cream cone or their favorite movie. A huge aspect of recovery is self-care, because our mental well-being is essential in maintaining our sobriety. Sobriety isn’t just military discipline, and fun is so much more than the standard kegger party. Every day, you can find small ways to treat yourself to healthy indulgences – like a good cup of coffee or an afternoon nap – without “indulging” in drugs or alcohol.
Lastly, as kids, we never turned down a chance for a good adventure. True adventure can be spontaneous, energetic, and exciting.But, a blurry night of consuming drugs and alcohol with strangers from the bar is such a limited version of adventure. What places do you want to explore? What things have you never seen? Find your nearest nature preserve, zoo, or take a mini road-trip and see what adventure is out there. The best part about thrills and new experiences is that they give our brains a natural high with a hit of dopamine!
One of the biggest lures of parties is all of our friends who will be there, or the friends we haven’t yet met. Unfortunately, if you partied anything like I did, we rarely remembered who we saw or met those nights and we didn’t act quite like our true selves.
Sober parties are perfectly plausible and can be just as rowdy, but the real thing we crave at parties is the sense of connection we feel with other people. Studies have shown that our brain gets a zing of dopamine when we feel connected to someone just by receiving a text message, and that pleasure is amplified in genuine, face-to-face connections. As sober people, we can truly relish this pleasure by fostering deep connections with people around us.
In sobriety, we are invited to a party with a whole new set of friends, who are often just as wacky and amazing as we are. Whether it be through meetings or events within your local recovery community, stay connected with other people in sobriety who understand your past and share your hopes for the future. My friends in sobriety are some of the liveliest people I’ve ever met and tell some of the craziest stories, yet they can also understand me in my hardest moments and support me while I get through them.
We don’t just have to have friends who are in sobriety, though. It helps to have a solid group of sober pals around you, but another gift of recovery is reconnecting with family and friends that we might’ve hurt during our substance abuse. These connections hold special potential, because we can share a new version of ourselves with these people and gain insight into who we used to be. There is beauty and healing, for both us and our loved ones, in this mutual understanding.
Life of the Party
All of the elements we used to love about the rowdy summer parties – with enough alcohol and drugs to fill a swimming pool – we can still find this summer without the substances. Fun is fun, and it had been liberating in my own recovery to see that I can still be just as fun (sometimes even more fun) when I’m not under the influence. So go out into nature wide-eyed and excited, let your inner child run loose looking for adventure, and connect with people you love and now will remember. Sobriety just means redefining the party.
Nadia Sheikh is a content writer and outreach representative for Sober Nation.