By Patrick O’Neil, Group Facilitator, CAST Centers
Summertime is awesome and there is so much to do. Not that winter in Los Angeles is all that repressive, but the beautiful weather and natural beauty of Southern California are in full force during the summer months. But if you just got out of rehab, sitting on the beach or passing the time at a quaint outdoor café might not even be on your radar yet. After all that time you spent indoors talking to your therapist and working through your core issues at the group level, all that unfiltered SoCal sunshine probably just might hurt your eyes, crowds of people could possibly make you a little anxious, and if someone offers you another chamomile tea or coconut water you’re going to hurl. Luckily there’s a whole big new sober world out there just waiting for you to jump right in. And even though your first instinct may be to avoid everything and everybody, saying, “I’m exhausted from being around people 24/7, I need some me time.” We both know that means you really just want is to isolate and avoid responsibility. And you know what? That hasn’t really worked in the past, has it? These next few weeks are crucial to you staying sober. So take all that good stuff they taught you at rehab and put it into practice.
Here are 5 Ways To Stay Sober This Summer (After Getting Out Of Rehab)
Meetings: Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re going to say, “I hate meetings.” So maybe try looking at meetings this way: How fond were you of waking up from a blackout drunk not knowing where you were or how you got there, or when you were dopesick and your skin was crawling from withdrawal, or even worse you were exhausted from tweaking all night and peeking out the windows at imaginary cops? The harsh truth is that a whole lot of addicts and alcoholics who try to get sober end up relapsing. Without 12 Step meetings you have more than a 50% chance of being back at the rehab, with zero days sober, starting all over again, and saying, “I don’t know what happened.” Isn’t hitting a meeting everyday a better option than another day spent in complete pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization? Yeah, I thought so too.
Fellowship: Seeing as you’ve already agreed that you’re going to meetings to maintain your program of recovery, how about instead of running out the door as soon as the meeting is over, try a little socializing. At every meeting there’s always a group of sober folks heading off to get coffee or food afterwards and that’s known as “fellowshipping.” These are the people you secretly want to hangout with, but you don’t know how to actually approach them. Sure it’s going to be awkward at first. But if you don’t put yourself out there, try new things and take chances, then nothing is going to change. Hell, it will probably even get worse. Besides, a few moments of awkward “getting to know you” small talk beats going home to your empty apartment and watching another bleak episode of Russian Doll while you white knuckle a long night craving tequila and cocaine. Who knows, you might even make new friends and have fun staying sober. Stranger things have happened. But here’s the best part, those friendships you make with fellowship, extend into every aspect of your life. You can call them and make plans and your social life will expand. You need help and they are there. You’ll do the same for them and it all becomes community. You’re building a support group that you’ve never had and can depend on, and soon you’ll be happy and wondering why you didn’t do this a million years ago.
Exercise: Nothing helps reduce your depression and anxiety like the endorphins from exercise. In LA there’s no shortage of opportunities to get out there and get the blood flowing. You can hike the canyons, jog around the Hollywood Reservoir, or swim in the Pacific Ocean. If you’re really industrious you can join a gym or get a membership at a yoga studio. With those bike share rentals you don’t even have to own a bike to get a great workout riding through the city—just stay off those scooters, that’s not exercise, more like an emergency room visit in the works. But seriously, scientific studies have found that regular exercise decreases tension, elevates and stabilizes your mood, and improves your sleep and self-esteem. And seeing as most of the aforementioned exercise suggestions are either free or low cost, an hour of physical exertion a day to relieve your depression and lower your anxiety is a pretty good deal.
Sober Fun: No one got sober with the sole intention of living a dismal life with no fun and even less enjoyment. Even though your idea of “fun” might be slightly skewed to include your former pastime of getting loaded and passing out, there are a ton of healthy and fun activities that are either sober events or events your can attend sober. There are three different outdoor film venues including one in the Hollywood cemetery. You like sports? The Dodgers, Clippers, Lakers and Los Angeles FC have a ton of home games you can attend. Music? LA has numerous concert venues and clubs to see whatever music you want. Okay, so I hear you complaining, “but people are drinking and doing drugs at those events.” Well, this is where that fellowshipping thing I told you about earlier comes in handy. Get a sober friend to come with you, better yet, get a whole bunch of sober friends and you’ll all be there supporting each other and having a blast.
Volunteer: Every 12 Step program suggests being of service to others. Nothing gets you out of your self-centered head like helping someone in need. Ask your sponsor and they’ll tell you that helping the newcomer will keep you stay sober. So, you may not have enough clean time to be a sponsor, but you sure can help in other ways. You got a car? Offer other addicts and alcoholics in recovery rides to meetings. Drop by your former sober living and see if the new residents want to go as well. If you want to go bigger, volunteer at a soup kitchen and help feed the homeless. And here’s the big “Aha!” moment: being of service to others helps you find fulfillment because giving freely of yourself improves your relationships. Um… how’s that work you say? Helping others, with no expectation of anything in return, not only creates a sense of meaning, but it also eliminates the awkwardness associated with engaging with people because you’re too busy helping to be stuck in your obsessive thought patterns. Go ahead and google “volunteer opportunities” and then get out there and help yourself by helping others.
The bottom line is it’s a program of action. You’re not going to stay sober if you don’t engage in your own life. So just put one foot in front of the other and step out of your comfort zone. You do even half of all that we’ve talked about—you’ll stay sober—and there will be plenty more amazing summers in your future.