For some of us, being sober in the summer is a challenging time. The summer means we are in holiday mode, there are vacations, long weekends, picnics, barbecues, the days are longer, the nights are warm and the drinks are cold.
This break from the norm, the feeling of fewer consequences and the carefree days where we can relax, let loose and join in the buzzy holiday vibe can be overwhelming and very triggering.
A recent study showed that actually, people living in colder climates may be more likely to drink heavily, partly due to lack of sunlight making us more depressed and also due to fact that there might not be much to do making it far more appealing to stay at home and participate in Päntsdrunk evenings. My drinking however, spiraled out of control after moving to Spain which is a heck of a lot warmer than the North East of England.
I quit drinking in the March of 2018 and even here in southern Spain it is a really depressing month and I feel that simply because it was damp, dark and miserable outside it helped me to stop. I literally spent the first few weeks on the sofa eating chocolate and drinking tea in front of the fire. I am sure I would have felt guilty if I had been such a hermit in the summer.
This will be my second sober summer, my first proper one really, because last year I was only about four months into my sobriety and didn’t venture out much. I was, however, ready to peel myself off the sofa and have a peek at what was going on in the world. Spain is the land of sunshine, tapas and fiestas – our little village taking full advantage by holding a six week long series of ferias and events.
I approached with caution, partaking in mainly morning activities with my children and planning my evening events carefully. I am a winter person at heart, so summer is not my favourite time of year anyway and I was a bit worried about how I would navigate it without my social lubricant, my crutch, my escape but it was actually not as bad as I thought and way better than previous beer soaked ones.
I remember one year we had been out to an open air concert in the village and got back at about 3am after having, obviously, been drinking quite a lot. The next morning we began looking through all the videos and photos from the previous night and decided to carry on with the party so we put the music on and began drinking again – it was only 11am. By four pm I was back in bed and the kids, understandably were extremely bored and fed up with me.
Thankfully this shameful, irresponsible behavior was not and will not be repeated and I am looking forward to another summer full of positive vibes and happy times. One positive that stands out is not having that constant bloated, sluggish feeling that I always had in the past from ‘enjoying’ too many beers.
Having had a small taste of what it’s like to be sober in the summer, I know it is very important not to romanticize the idea that summer requires alcohol but instead to focus on all the benefits that a sober summer will bring of which there are many.
Forget that awful fuzzy feeling you get when you drink in the sun, you know when your brain goes hazy, your legs don’t work and all you want to do is sleep? Summer is a brilliant time to have some time off the booze, enjoy new experiences, create new memories and actually have a summer that you don’t need to recover from.
How to enjoy a sober summer
Experiment with new drinks
if there is ever a time when you need to remain hydrated then summer is it. If you don’t fancy glugging water all day then happily there are a whole range of new and exciting AF drinks available from non alcoholic spirits, to craft beers, Kombucha and mocktails, just because you’re not drinking alcohol it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a nice drink.
My first sober summer was spent mainly drinking tea, if we did go out to a local event then I would have one of Spain’s many alcohol free beers.
If you find alcohol free alternatives too triggery or if, like me this year, you just don’t fancy them then get creative and find something that you really love and that feels special. I am enjoying the odd Frappé at home and have recently discovered that I love a sparkling water if I’m out.
The key, as with everything on your sober journey, is to do what YOU like and drink what YOU enjoy. Why not get some inspiration and read the reviews of some alcohol free drinks we have tried and taste tested for you.
Being outside has many, many benefits, not least in sobriety which I talk about in this video on the sober bliss YouTube channel. There is something therapeutic and liberating about spending time outdoors whether you prefer to feel the sand between your toes or to breathe in the fresh scent of mountain springs, make the most of the summer and spend as much time outside as you can.
Thankfully the summer brings lots of opportunities to make the most of your free time, enjoy the warm weather and try something new.
Stay away from old haunts like pub gardens if they are triggering for you and use this as an opportunity to try a new activity, discover new places or revisit your favourite spots with fresh eyes.
There is nothing quite like rising before the rest of the world and just taking some time to reflect, enjoy the peace and embrace the fact that you are up and don’t have a hangover. Fresh, bright sober summer mornings add a whole new dimension to your day that never get old, and starting the day well will give you a huge sense of gratitude and pride which will carry you through.
If you can, get outside as exposure to sunlight will help wake you up and help regulate the levels of melatonin in your brain which is a naturally occurring hormone essential to your sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin is also important in helping you fall asleep and stay asleep, so if you’re having trouble sleeping in sobriety, this early morning sun worship will make all the difference.
Read all about how I rediscovered sober mornings in this blog post. Also it is important to do something nice for yourself in the morning so it doesn’t feel like a punishment if you’re up early. Have a nice breakfast, catch an early morning class, meditate, do yoga or just sit in the garden with a cup of tea and enjoy the start to your day.
Be a kid again
I don’t know about you but my kids are so happy and excited that it’s the summer, even if we’ve no big plans this year, they are just so delighted not to have to go to school every day! (Mind you, we have about 11 weeks holiday here so we’ll see how they are by the end!) The point is that it’s summer and therefore they are happy – nothing special has to happen.
Be like a child and relax into it, don’t plan too much if you don’t want to and remember that children don’t need anything fancy to have a good time.
Make your own fun and if you have children in your life then try to get down on their level, see things through their eyes and enjoy the activities for what they are. My problem in the past was always wanting to get the trip to the pool/beach/woods/whateverelseactivity over and done with so I could get to the bar or home to my beer. As a result I never got the chance to really enjoy what we were doing that day.
A sober summer is so much more gratifying and enjoying when you are fully present in every minute you spend with your kids. So far we’ve been to the woods, picked wild flowers and enjoyed lots of dog walks and I can’t wait to just enjoy my time with them whatever it is we do.
Eat your way through the summer
At the start of every summer I always get really excited at the sheer amount of fresh fruit and veg available and decide that this year will be ‘the summer of salads’ or ‘the summer of sandwiches’ but never really get round to doing much about my plans.
However I really want to give it a go this year and eat as healthily as possible with a view to being as creative and adventurous as I can in the kitchen. Even if you don’t love cooking the summer is a great time to experiment with new salads, fancy sandwiches or super smoothies. Beat your cravings with fresh fruit, add another dimension to your picnics and jazz up your barbecues by bringing to your table as much summer bounty as you can!
Look after yourself
While it might be tempting to fill your days with activities it is really important to keep up with your self care routine. Summer can be stressful with kids, especially if you do go away on holiday as there is the temptation that we need to make it ’the best holiday ever’ and cram as much as we can into every single day. This can leave us feeling frazzled, resentful and sometimes just downright knackered.
Yes, the summer is a time for fun, yes it is a time to go to new places and try new things, it is also a time of weddings, celebration, barbecues and lots of social activities. But remember to put yourself first and I know as mums, this is sometimes hard to do.
Make yourself and your sobriety your top priority this summer and make sure you have lots of opportunities to take a break, create some proper alone time, have time out when you need it and never feel guilty.
Remember your why
This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give. It is so easy to get caught up in the holiday vibe but do not romanticize the idea of alcohol. You know what will happen if you have ‘just one’ drink. Remember why you are on this sober journey. If necessary keep a list of all the reasons why you don’t want to drink close to you. Our minds play tricks on us and it is easy to remember the good times and we sometimes forget the real reason we are doing this.
Keep your sober toolkit handy, play the movie forward like I explain in this YouTube video, avoid your trigger situations. If you are not sure yet what triggers you then read this post I wrote to help. Focus on the positives, always think ahead to the morning and know just how fantastic you will feel waking up sober with another day under your belt. Be proactive, look for new activities to try, experiment with new AF drinks and if you need to get away from it all and give yourself some space.
Above all love yourself, be happy in your decision and never question it.
If this is your first sober summer or one of many I’d love to hear what you are doing, please let me know in the comments below.
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Here’s to a happy, healthy, sober summer!