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Coping with Drinking Triggers During the Warmer Months

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As the weather warms up, the excitement of summer activities and social gatherings increases. For those in recovery from alcohol addiction, however, the seasonal shift can bring with it a unique set of challenges.

According to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), as of 2023, an estimated 14.5 million people in the US ages 12 and older have alcohol use disorder (AUD). This stark statistic clearly underscores the prevalence of alcohol-related issues, as well as the importance of managing triggers, especially during the warmer months when socialising hits its peak.

Furthermore, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that in 2021, about 72.2% of adults who had ever experienced a substance use problem considered themselves to be recovering or in recovery. This significant percentage further indicates a strong ongoing need for support systems and coping strategies to manage recovery effectively, particularly during challenging periods such as summer festivities.

Naturally, the warmer months often correlate with an uptick in social events in which alcohol is present, making it a critical time for those trying to maintain sobriety; Understanding how to navigate these triggers is crucial to making it through to the winter with your well-earned sobriety intact.

Understanding the seasonal triggers

The first step in managing triggers is recognising them. Summer brings barbecues, holiday celebrations, and casual get-togethers, often accompanied by alcohol. Dr. Brooke Keels, Chief Clinical Officer at Lighthouse Recovery, notes: “Summer doesn’t just bring sunshine and relaxed schedules; it also brings an increase in social activities where alcohol is frequently highlighted; it’s important for those in recovery to prepare strategies in advance for handling these situations.”

Recognising that these events can be triggering is an essential part of the process, as preparation is most certainly better than cure when it comes to navigating social triggers as a recovering addict. Planning ahead can include ensuring there is a non-alcoholic beverage option available or even hosting events to control the environment.

Strategies for managing triggers

Staying sober during these months requires a proactive approach. Here are some key strategies that can help:

  • Stay connected with your support system. Keep in regular contact with your therapist, recovery group, or sober friends; their support can be crucial when you’re feeling vulnerable.
  • Have an exit strategy. Sometimes, the best way to handle a high-risk situation is to leave. Make sure you have a way to exit situations where the presence of alcohol becomes too overwhelming.
  • Bring your own beverages. Bringing along your own non-alcoholic drinks can help to ensure that you have safe options available – preparation that can make you feel much more in control.
  • Communicate with hosts. If you’re attending a party, communicate with the host about your needs. Often, they can be accommodating by offering alternatives or even making part of the event alcohol-free.
  • Focus on new traditions. Try to shift the focus from alcohol-centered activities to new traditions. Plan or participate in alcohol-free activities that can provide fulfilment and enjoyment without the need for alcoholic drinks. Michelle English, Executive Clinical Manager at Healthy Life Recovery, emphasises the importance of new traditions: “Creating new traditions during the warmer months can redefine what summer means to someone in recovery; it’s about finding joy and connection in activities that don’t centre around alcohol, which can significantly reinforce one’s sobriety.”

Mental health maintenance

Maintaining mental health is just as important as managing physical surroundings. Engage in regular physical activity, get enough sleep, and practice stress-relief techniques such as meditation or yoga; these practices can help maintain a balanced mood and reduce the urge to drink.

Keeping your mental health in check during the summer is crucial. Warm weather can be enjoyable, but it can also lead to increased stress for those coping with recovery. Regularly engaging in self-care routines that address both physical and mental health needs can provide stability.


Navigating the challenges of summer while in recovery is no small feat, but with the right strategies and supports in place, it is entirely possible to enjoy the warmer months alcohol-free. By mindfully recognising triggers, planning ahead, and maintaining a strong support system, individuals can successfully manage their recovery throughout the season.

Jeffrey Grant, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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