Summer naturally carries a lot of pleasant vibes – lazy days by the pool, backyard BBQs, picnics in the park, and vacations at the beach. It’s a time when life slows down a little, the daily grind is less intense, and people seem to smile more. Letting loose is the name of the game.
However, if you or your loved one struggles with substance abuse, letting loose could spell disaster. Unfortunately, many of our beloved summer social traditions are inherently connected with substance use, like BBQs and beer, weed with friends around the campfire, or late-night parties with all of the above.
A study by researchers at the NYU School of Medicine found that roughly 30 percent of those who use LSD, cocaine, ecstasy, and marijuana took their initial hit during the summer months. And alcohol tends to flow more freely in the summer, especially among underage drinkers.
At the same time, summer can be an ideal time to get started with a residential detox program. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Out of Temptation’s Way
Half the battle of recovery is to take yourself out of the environment of other substance users and abusers. Staying away from all the celebrations and the resulting intense peer pressure to indulge with everybody else is an obvious benefit of entering an addiction recovery center during the summer.
Vacations represent another possible trigger, as regular routines and structure often fall by the wayside when we’re away from home. When overtired or run down, our motivation to self-medicate with our substance of choice grows exponentially.
Another plus to engaging with a summer drug rehab program is that you can do a variety of fun, outdoor activities with a group of people who want to achieve recovery just as badly as you do. For all intents and purposes, you’re working and vacationing in a safe place for several weeks until you detox and develop the tools to cope with your addiction in healthier ways.
2. The Benefit of Extra Time
Many of us want to use our hard-earned vacation days during the summer months for a getaway or two. And with your coworkers already busy with their own summer plans, they likely won’t notice you taking an extended ‘vacation’ to seek treatment. Your boss probably will have an easier time finding a temporary employee to shoulder your workload while you’re gone.
If you’re a parent, summer also means a break from spending several hours every day helping your child with schoolwork and other projects. Taking several weeks to get yourself healthy won’t impact their academic development and, more importantly, will help you become a more stable and engaged parent when school starts again in the fall.
The same principle applies if you are a student. Summer is a great time to focus solely on your recovery journey so that when the stressors of work or school come back into your life, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them without turning to unhealthy substances.
3. An Opportunity to Rebuild Family Relationships
We at Renaissance Ranch firmly believe that addiction affects the entire family, not just the substance abuser. Thus, every recovery journey involves mending and maintaining formerly strained family relationships.
Family group therapy, individual support groups, family education classes, and webinars – all of these critical resources require a level of involvement that may be difficult to muster if you’re also busy dealing with kids, school schedules, and work responsibilities. We offer free, weekly family education classes, both online and in-person, throughout the year, and summer is a great time to take advantage of these.
The kids may not appreciate trading in a traditional family vacation for staying home while dad goes into a residential detox program. However, the relationships he forges with them during his recovery will far outweigh the traumas caused in a home blighted by alcohol or substance abuse.
4. Lower Risk of Death by Suicide and Overdose
Substance abuse has long been considered a significant contributor to suicide ideation and completion. In a 2020 study of the general population, Addiction Science & Clinical Practice researchers found that suicide risk increased with all categories of substance abuse, including tobacco.
About 92,000 people died from drug and alcohol overdoses in 2020, and of those, between five percent and seven percent were considered intentional, according to a recent National Institutes of Health study. Since it’s not always clear if an overdose is a suicide completion, experts believe that number could be higher.
Contrary to what you might think, suicide rates spike the highest in spring and summer. Some researchers postulate that longer days can prove difficult for those with depression and other mental illnesses, diagnoses often linked with substance abuse disorders. Endless hours of screen time and comparing our ‘boring’ summer with the seemingly fabulous exploits of our friends on social media likely doesn’t help, either.
Thus, surrounding yourself with licensed addiction counselors, therapists, and mental health experts instead of fellow substance users could make the difference between life and death this summer.
5. Prepare for the Winter Holidays
Holiday work parties, gift-giving, family get-togethers – all of these have the potential to bring us tremendous joy or a dizzying amount of stress and anxiety. If you already use drugs or alcohol to cope with mental health issues or past trauma, the anxiety produced by holiday celebrations could significantly elevate your level of substance abuse.
By going into an addiction recovery center during the summer, you can have the time to put in place a holiday plan to help you avoid triggering situations and deal with potentially awkward conversations in advance.
For instance, if your substance abuse stems from unresolved issues with your parents, it will be good to work with them in a therapy setting before seeing them and the extended family at Thanksgiving. Or, if you and your coworkers have an unofficial Christmas party at the local pub every year, you can make arrangements ahead of time to enjoy socializing without putting yourself at risk.
While anytime is a good time to deal with your substance use disorder, the summer season presents a unique opportunity to do so with more time, less stress, and more family involvement.