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Summertime. The time when we sit poolside in our favorite pair of swim trunks and jam out to some old-school Kenny Chesney on our patio speaker. Crank that stereo up, add some good friends to the mix and cold drinks, and we’re living. I dare you to name a better combo.

To most of us, summertime is a time of relaxation, friends, and fun. But to others, it’s perfect party weather. You can’t open Instagram and not be inundated with the countless beer or day drinking videos posted by our friends over at Barstool Sports.

There’s no getting around it. Alcohol is everywhere, especially during the summer. In fact, a recent Nielsen study suggests that beer companies make roughly 34-40% of their annual revenue during this time period. Therefore, it’s a no brainer to suggest that excessive alcohol use and good weather go hand-in-hand.

That’s begs the question then: Is it even possible to have fun during the summer without alcohol? Is a day out at the lake even worth it if you can’t drink a beer with your buddies? With all these alcohol-related summer activities going on, am I missing out on something by being sober?

My answer to you is a resounding NO. You’re not missing out on anything! You can have a ton of fun during the summer without alcohol. And as a person in long-term recovery, I’d argue that you’re able to have more fun. Take it from a guy who went to rehab during prime-time drinking season.

Why I Need Alcohol to Have Fun

As the Lead Recovery Advocate at Stonegate Center, my goal is to be a mentor to men struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. I guide each client through the 12-Steps, facilitate our daily programming, and try to be someone for these guys to lean on when things get tough. But, I didn’t get here without my own struggles.

Before I got sober, I couldn’t imagine life without alcohol. Everywhere I looked people were drinking, partying, and having a ton of fun. From Ranger games and Christmas parties to weddings and class reunions, alcohol was more than just a social lubricant. It was my lifeblood. I truly thought that being sober would prevent me from fully participating in these everyday life events.

So, I drank.

And, soon, I found every excuse to drink. You just got off work? Great, let’s drink. You passed your class? Congrats, let’s drink. It’s your birthday? Awesome, let’s drink. It’s the day before your birthday? Works for me, let’s drink.

Drinking was an essential part of my life, and my daily schedule revolved around (a) how to get it, (b) when to get it, and (c) where to get it. I didn’t need a why.

However, as socially acceptable as drinking is, and despite all of the “fun” I convinced myself I was having, there comes a time when moderation is called for. This is where I differed from my friends and my family. Whereas some people could unwind with a beer or mixed drink, and call it a night, I couldn’t.

Once I started drinking, I only stopped for two reasons: I ran out or I passed out. Others could call it a night and go about their lives, but I was incapable of having just one. My drinking became habitual and excessive – to the point where people didn’t want to be around me.

I knew that I couldn’t use alcohol successfully and responsibly, and I knew it was time to stop. At the time, however, I had no idea that what I was attempting was extremely difficult for someone like me. I just didn’t understand the severity of this disease.

You see, I could get clean.

I just couldn’t stay clean.

The biggest roadblock to my sobriety was what to do when I wasn’t working. For some reason, when I was at work, I was okay. I was still able to summon the willpower to not drink right before work. To be clear, I had no problem working drunk, and did when the circumstances were in my favor.

However, I worked in customer service and they typically frown when you reek of whiskey. So, I had a rule: if I quit drinking 6 hours before work, I felt like I was good to go. If I had already gotten my bottle before work, I didn’t really think about drinking while I was on the clock. If I had not gotten a bottle, my mind was racing, looking for somehow and someway to secure my needs for the evening.

I tried pills and I tried pot to take my mind off alcohol, those were less obvious to coworkers than alcohol on my breath, but they just didn’t cut it. Nothing would quench my thirst but alcohol, the stronger the better. The further into my shift I got, the more I began thinking about drinking.

Just like hunger pangs, it was an inescapable, constant thought, only subdued by the fact that I had a bottle waiting for me in my car or around the corner. So, in my mind, I was a great employee and, according to my definitions, I was “sober.” Pot is a plant, no harm there, and pills are prescribed by doctors, not my doctor of course but someone had prescribed them. Makes sense, right?

Wrong.

However, as “successful” as I was at work, as soon as I got off, I would immediately turn to my drug of choice: alcohol. I would get in my car and start drinking straight from the bottle. Give me 15 minutes, and I could get you a BAC over the legal limit. I was a pro. From the time I got off until my rule kicked in, I was either drinking, sleeping, or getting high. I was in this pattern for over a decade, drinking at almost every available opportunity, only semi-sobering up for work and the occasional family event.

My problem was that I couldn’t sit still and be without using some kind of mind-altering substance. Life was boring no matter what was going on around me, and I just couldn’t wrest any type of satisfaction from it. I tried to fill my days with trips to the movies, working out, bowling, anything that could take my mind off the constant thoughts of either wanting to use, or not wanting to use. But nothing worked.

Why I Spent My Summer Getting Sober, and You Should, Too

However, I knew I had to get sober and stay sober. This time for good. I couldn’t consistently drink or use drugs responsibly, and I was tired of disappointing not only myself, but also the people around me that I cared about. And during the summer of 2017, I reached my breaking point…

Unlike some people, I had never really experienced huge consequences as a result of my drinking. My story is more of a gradual decline, rather than a huge wake-up call. Instead of a dramatic exit from college, I just stopped going. Instead of getting fired, I saw the writing on the wall and quit before my managers could let me go.

Before friends asked me to stay away, I would just ghost them and disappear. I always had an excuse for why I was doing what I was doing, but the real reason was always that my alcoholism became impossible to hide and I had to find a way to escape the harsh reality of the situation.

The events that led up to me going into treatment were no different. I had began dating again, something I was terrified of. I had a decent relationship I was trying to build, and I worked very hard to mask my alcoholism as a guy who just liked to party. But things started to come unraveled after a few months.

There were only so many excuses I could make for why I was always drinking when we hung out or talked on the phone, and I was beginning to run out of them. My girlfriend was starting to realize that I was, more or less, always drunk, and I distinctly remember her telling me that when I’m ready to quit, I will.

I thought she was like everyone else and just didn’t understand. I told her that I’m making a choice, that it’s my decision. I truly believed that if I just focused and got my head straight that I could stay sober, despite the fact that I’d been trying to do just that for over a decade.

It all came to a head one afternoon. I got off work at 5pm and she got off at 6. The plan was, we were going to the bar and we were going to drink. As I stated before, she knew I was more than just a “weekend warrior” and was okay with me getting an additional bottle of alcohol. The only condition she had was that I be sober when we met to go out. It was only an hour after all.

Everything was going to plan, I was “sober” at work and went directly to the liquor store after I got off. I bought my bottle intending to drink it later that night. As the cashier was ringing me up and I was about to pay, I told him, “Throw in a pint too.” All that focus, the ultimatum I’d been given, and my best thinking went straight out of the window. I immediately drank the pint and went home to get ready.

She punched me in the face

and drove away, crying her eyes out.

When my girlfriend arrived, she smelled the alcohol on my breath right away and needless to say, she was not pleased. In fact, she punched me in the face and drove away, crying her eyes out. I got in my car and followed her, she’d only made it around one corner before she pulled over.

After things settled down that evening, we had a long talk. I remember her asking me if I chose to buy that bottle and drink it that afternoon. I thought back and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t have a choice. In some way yes, I choose what I’m going to drink, and perhaps the exact moment that I’m going to drink it.

But I drink every day, whether I want to or not, and when push came to shove that day, I realized I can’t go an hour without drinking. I can promise you that if my life depended on me not drinking during that hour after work, I’d be a dead man today. I had no defense. I needed help.

Soon, My Summer Became All About Introspection, Hard Work, and the 12-Steps

At that moment, I was willing to do whatever it took to stay drug-and-alcohol free for the rest of my life, even if that meant sacrificing my summer. Heck, even if it meant sacrificing every preconceived notion about my life, every fiber of muscle memory that was instilled in my body for the past 31 years, every maladaptive and destructive behavior I’ve turned toward.

I was desperate. Summer wasn’t fun with alcohol. In fact, it was a living nightmare.

So, there I was: hopeless and at a place the Big Book of Alcohol Anonymous describes as the jumping off point. And, during that summer, man you better bet, I was I ready to jump off.

Although I was ready and internally motivated, the hardest part was still imagining life without alcohol. Sometimes, it just seemed useless. There’s the crushing boredom. The restless energy. The anger and irritability. The discontentedness. Alcohol helped me suppress all those unwanted feelings to the point where I naively believed that alcohol was more medicinal than it was destructive.

But I was done. And if I must sacrifice what seemed to be the only avenue to happiness, then so be it. It was time to be sober. Time to be the man that my family, my friends, and God not only wanted but needed me to be.

Fortunately, that’s not what sobriety looks like. You don’t have to sacrifice happiness to be sober. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, this topic is covered in depth. Look no further than page 152, where it says:

“Yes, I’m willing. But am I to be consigned to a life where I shall be stupid, boring and glum, like some righteous people I see? I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?

Yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that. It is a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous.”

Reading this gave me hope for something that I had always thought was impossible. I could be happy. Sure, I wanted to be sober, but what I really wanted was to be happy, to not have to desperately search for things to fill the void I created for myself. I was skeptical at first, but after working the steps and settling into a fellowship of likeminded people, I became convinced.

Your Sobriety Shouldn’t Constrain You; It Should Free You

One of the biggest misconceptions about getting sober is that there are certain places recovering addicts can and can’t go. And certain things we can’t do. Before I went to treatment, I learned about “triggers.” I learned that I had to keep sober by avoiding people, places, and things that were a part of my previous life, my life of using.

Unfortunately for me, my “triggers” were days off and boredom. My life would be terrible if I couldn’t take a day off, and I had to spend every waking moment in high-intensity, time-wasting activities. That style of sobriety is just not realistic for a hopeless drunk like me.

The great thing about having a practical and achievable solution is that I can go anywhere and do anything I need to – provided I take certain simple, recovery-oriented steps. For example, I can go shopping and don’t have to avoid the beer aisle. I can go to concerts where people are blitzed out of their minds. I can even go to a restaurant with a full bar.

These are things that should be impossible for someone like me to do, yet I can do them. All because I work the 12-Steps and have a connection with God.

Here, at Stonegate Center, we teach our clients how to live a full and happy life in recovery, where they’re not stymied or restricted in everyday life. We teach our clients a recovery-oriented solution that will give them the confidence to take on whatever challenges come their way. We want our alumni to be brave and steadfast, not timid or weak.

By doing so, men and women who’ve gone through our program can go anywhere, do anything, and even spend their summers better than ever. Something their non-recovered friends might be jealous of.

It’s my opinion that a recovered man or woman has been placed in a position of neutrality, and because of that, not using drugs or alcohol becomes a non-issue. By working the Twelve Steps as they are outlined in the book Alcoholics Anonymous and either developing or re-discovering a relationship with God, Stonegate Center alumni are able to go anywhere in the world without having to “watch out” for drugs and alcohol.

As a drug and alcohol treatment facility that incorporates the 12-Steps into its clinical approach, I find our program resonates the most with Page 164 of Alcoholics Anonymous, which states:

“Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.”

Join Our Recovery Community Today!

My suggestion for those of you suffering with addiction this summer is to trust God, clean house and help others. Once you get sober, I encourage you to go to those baseball games, enjoy that cousin’s wedding, cookout on the 4th of July, and enjoy the time with your friends and family. The thing that will set you apart from your peers is the peace of mind that comes with having an honest solution to your drug and alcohol addiction.

If you or a loved one is actively struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, we are here to help. Give one of our Admissions Specialists a call at (817) 993-9733 or email us at admissions@stonegatecenter.com. Our long-term substance abuse treatment program offers individual therapy, group therapy, equine therapy, and a two-part family intensive.

Like me, many of our staff have been in the same position as you or your loved ones. That’s  why we encourage you to take the first step and reach out in order to start your journey towards lifelong sobriety. It works, it really does.

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