Stay Sober During Summer Part One: Places to Walk and Places to Talk

Photo of a group of young adults hiking outdoors
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Another summer is upon us already, and we’re here to help you stay sober during summer with our best tips for recovery friendly activities that are inexpensive, accessible, and easy. These are all things you can do in small groups, large groups, or alone, if you need solo time. The best thing about these tips/suggestions is you can almost any of them right away, starting today. There’s nothing fancy here: just simple, recovery friendly things that can help you wile away the hot days and those endless summer twilights.

Before we get to our top tips, we should note that the most important part of staying sober all summer is sticking to the recovery plan you developed during treatment. And if you’ve never been in treatment, we suggest either 1. Seeking treatment, or 2. Finding a sponsor at a 12-step meeting to help you formulate a recovery plan that gives you the greatest chance of achieving your goals.

If you think you need professional support in getting and staying sober – whether you have an alcohol use disorder (AUD), a substance use disorder (SUD), or co-occurring AUD/SUD and a mental health disorder, please consider seeking professional treatment:

Medically Monitored Detox

Residential Inpatient Treatment

Partial Hospitalization Treatment

Office-Based Opioid Treatment

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Outpatient Treatment

Evidence shows that the earlier a person who needs treatment for an alcohol or substance use disorder gets professional treatment, the better the outcome. Therefore, if you think you need support, then we suggest seeking a full addiction assessment administered by an experienced, qualified professional: they can help you find out what you need – and help you take step to get there.

But if you’re already on your recovery journey and clicked here for the summer tips, read on: we’re ready to share.

Staying Sober All Summer: Keeping it Simple

One thing recovery teaches us is that it’s possible to organize your life around a singular focus – staying sober/staying in recovery – while living a full, rich, and diverse life. Yes, getting and staying sober/in recovery keeps you from doing some things, but it opens an entire world of opportunity that you likely overlooked before you started your recovery journey. You learn how to have fun in simple, wholesome, soul-enriching ways. And when you realize how good it feels to keep things simple, sober, and recovery friendly, we think you’ll feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude – for your life, for your peers, and for your recovery.

Ready for our list?

We actually have four of them. We’ll share two in this article, and the next two in Part Two, coming soon to this blog.

Summer Recovery Ideas: Places to Walk

We truly think taking walks might be one of the secrets to a happy life. And we know taking walks is a recovery-friendly way to get easy exercise, clear your head, and relax. But where can you take these magic walks?

1. Your Neighborhood

This is the first place to start. Urban, suburban, ex-urban, rural – it doesn’t matter. Take a 20-minute stroll – or longer – around your neighborhood. You can make it a workout, a post-dinner stroll, or an early morning wake-up. Neighborhood walks are a great way to meet the people in your neighborhood and feel connected to others, whether you stop and socialize or not: just being out there and seeing people (and their dogs) can lift your spirits right away.

2. Parks

If your neighborhood isn’t great for walking, then find a park. A park can be a destination for a walk, or you can drive to a park in a different part of town for the sole purpose of getting some you-time in accessible greenspace. And yes, city parks count as greenspace, and spending as little as half an hour in a park is as healthy as spending as spending half an hour out in the woods. Read the evidence on the benefits of greenspace on mental health here and here.

3. Downtowns

On the other side of the spectrum, i.e. not nature walks but still walks, we suggest calling a friend and arranging time to go walk around a scenic downtown area in a small town. Everywhere around the country, municipalities are remembering the value of walkable, people-friendly downtown areas, and revitalizing business districts with the goal of attracting people: it’s the comeback of Main Street, USA – and we think you should go find a small town, take a walk, and see what they have to offer.

4. Malls

Yes, really! Although The Golden Era of Malls – the 70s and 80s – may be behind us, malls are still there, and you don’t have to spend any money or shop. During the oppressive summer heat, consider taking a walk at a mall. They’re great if you’re not in a physical place where you can take long walks outdoors in the heat. You can sit, rest, and people watch. Then you can walk a little more, and sit, rest, and people watch at the Food Court. We know it may seem unusual, but this summer, to get out of the house – and beat the heat – consider talking a stroll at a nearby mall.

5. Hikes

You can consider hiking advanced walking. There are three things that can make a walk into a hike: location, distance, and time. The location can be a state or national park where you park your car, find the trailhead, and walk a nice loop for a morning, afternoon, or full day. Walking a long distance over a longish period of time – let’s say three miles or more over 2-3 hours – elevates a walk to hike status wherever you choose to do it.

Staying Sober All Summer: Keep Connected

Another thing recovery teaches you is the value of genuine human connection. Most people who have a successful recovery report that they could never do it without the support of their recovery peers. You might meet recovery peers during treatment or you might meet them at 12-step meetings. Here’s something you know already, if you’ve been in recovery for any period of time, and if you’re new to recovery, you’ll learn soon: people in recovery always find each other. Strange but true, and it will happen to you. At work, at play, and out in the world, once you start your journey, you’ll find others walking the path.

We can’t explain it, but believe us, it happens. And when you meet recovery peers, talking with them is invaluable. That’s why we made this second list.

Summer Recovery Ideas: Places to Talk

1. Coffeeshops

Meeting up at a café to catch up with friends is a time-honored recovery tradition that we fully support. You don’t have to drink coffee, of course. Consume any recovery-friendly beverage you like. The benefits of coffeeshops are numerous, including:

  • They don’t cost much money. You rent a table for the price of a cup of coffee (or a bagel or a muffin or a juice) and spend as long as you like.
  • Lingering is expected. People who work at coffeeshops expect customers to spend time chatting. However, if you stay longer than an hour, buy something else. Remember, it’s like you’re unofficially renting the table, and you always need to stay current on the rent – right?
  • Seeing and being a regular. If you meet up with friends at the same place, consistently, over time, then you become regulars. When you become a regular at a coffeeshop, you often meet the other regulars. That means that if you start out going to a place with a group, it can become yours, and you might meet other people that enrich your life. That’s how building community works: slowly, consistently, over time – just like recovery.

2. Restaurants

Another great place to meet up with recovery peers to talk about the ups and downs of recovery is at a restaurant. In this case, we use restaurant in the metaphorical sense. Your restaurant is anywhere – outside of a home – you sit down for a meal with friends. When you’re in recovery, you’ll learn that your social life includes people in recovery and people who are not in recovery. Meals and meet-ups with recovery peers will occupy a special place in your life.

They’re like informal therapy sessions.

They can help keep you on track between meetings or counseling sessions, help you resolve small problems that you don’t need to talk to your sponsor about, or help you start to unravel bigger, life-size challenges. And remember: your peers are there for you, and you’re there for them. Sometimes saying yes to a meal and spending time talking is all the support you need. And when we said we were using restaurant in the metaphorical sense, what we meant is that your restaurant meet-up can be at a hot dog cart downtown, a taco truck any time, or a hot slice somewhere Brooklyn-esque. Meet up, get some food, have a seat, have a chat: that’s how you do it – and it’s a great way to stay connected to your recovery peers.

3. 12-Step Meetings

We think everyone in recovery should experience at least one 12-step meeting. Why? The collective wisdom at every meeting is valuable. At any given meeting in any given town – small or large, morning, noon, or evening meeting – you’ll find people who’ve been through what you’ve been through and can relate to the challenges you face. This is true for all the following:

These meetings are anonymous, which is important. You can go to a meeting, and with the exception of criminal behavior, anything you say in the meeting stays in the meeting.  Some people sit and listen. Others check in about their daily challenges. At some meetings, people celebrate milestones, like a day, a week, a month, a year, or a decade in recovery. Every milestone is notable, because it means that person is doing the work of recovery.

When you go to a 12-step meeting, you have the opportunity to talk to people who’ve been through what you’re going through and can related to you. We say that above, but we want you to think about that. For instance, you might meet someone with 35 years in recovery: hearing their stories might answer questions you never knew you had, and teach you things you absolutely need to know. On the other hand, you might meet someone on their first day of recovery, and you can be part of the community that welcomes them, inspires them, and tells them they are not alone. In other words, these meetings are safe places where you can give and receive support. And over time, you’ll probably realize that giving support can be every bit as important to your recovery as receiving it.

Your Summer in Recovery

If this is your first summer in recovery, we encourage you to think ahead, make a plan, and stick to it. This is most important if it’s been years since you’ve had a sober summer. You may realize all your leisure activities and spare time involved drinking or using drugs, which means you need to find new, recovery friendly activities to pass the long summer days – like the things we mention in the two lists above. Walking, talking, and meeting can help keep you on track, and most definitely help you stay sober all summer.

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.