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Completing addiction treatment is a major step on the road to recovery, but it’s only the beginning of a lifelong journey. Recovery will present a number of challenges, and handling relapse triggers is probably one of the toughest aspects of maintaining your sobriety.

Summertime can be a minefield of triggers. With beach parties, outdoor music festivals, barbecues and other events on the horizon, it’s hard to steer clear of alcohol and drug use. When you understand the triggers that could lead you to slip up, you’ll have better luck sticking to your recovery plan.

Understanding Triggers

A trigger is as any person, situation or thing that can lead to cravings or actual substance use. While individual triggers will vary among individuals, some relapse triggers are especially common among people recovering from substance abuse.

Difficult emotions such as anxiety, sadness and depression can be hard to handle, and the urge to block out these painful feelings is strong. Many relapses occur when a person uses drugs or alcohol as a way to manage difficult feelings; it doesn’t take very long to find yourself resuming your old patterns of addictive behavior.

Another dangerous trigger is being around people who are drinking or using drugs—that’s where summertime activities may threaten to derail your recovery.

Making a Plan

Once you can identify the summer activities that might trigger cravings, you can make a plan to handle them. The safest choice is to avoid these events when you can. Stay away from the parties and barbecues where alcohol will be flowing, or host your own sober event and invite some like-minded friends.

For obligations you simply can’t skip, like the annual company picnic or a family birthday, ask a sober friend or trusted family member to accompany you. Their support will make it easier to resist temptation and survive the event.

Enjoying a Sober Summer

While it’s important to be aware of summertime relapse triggers and do your best to avoid them, you don’t have to miss out on summer fun. With a little planning and strategy, you can make this summer your most memorable one yet:

  • Connect with sober friends: Take the time to hang out with sober friends during the summer, whether you’re grabbing a quick coffee or planning a weekend outing. It’s much easier to relax and avoid temptation when you’re spending time with other people who don’t use drugs or alcohol.
  • Start a project: Is there a class you’ve wanted to take or a new workout regimen you’ve wanted to start? Summer is a great time to tackle a fun, sober project that keeps you busy and makes you feel good about your accomplishments.
  • Volunteer: Giving back to your community is one of the most powerful ways to boost your mood and keep your recovery mindset strong. You’ll feel your confidence soar, and you’ll remember how fortunate you are to be free of addiction and able to help improve other people’s lives.
  • Take a sober trip: If you don’t have a set of sober friends or family members you feel comfortable traveling with, many companies exist that can help you plan a recovery-oriented vacation. You can sign up for a sober cruise, or join a tour group made up of other recovering individuals.

Preventing relapse is a real challenge, especially during the early weeks and months of recovery. However, the rewards of a clean and sober life make the effort worthwhile. Summertime might come with some additional triggers and temptations, but they don’t need to derail your recovery. With an awareness of these triggers and a solid plan in place, you can avoid a relapse and still enjoy the summer season.

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