Summer is a wonderful season. It’s warm, sunny, and all the kids are out of school. Families plan beach vacations and spend as much time as they can at the pool. And the whole thing starts and ends with traditional holidays: at the end of May, Memorial Day kicks the season off, then at the beginning of September, Labor Day marks the official end of summer.
The time between is filled with a combination of relaxing and attending family events: summer is the time of graduations, weddings, family reunions, and random barbecues or pool parties people throw just because it’s summer. And of course, there’s the biggest summer bash of all right in the middle: the 4th of July.
If you’re new to recovery, you may resist all the family events.
We get it.
You many be hesitant, anxious, or nervous about attending them for any number of reasons. For instance:
- You may come from a family of drinkers and you know there will be alcohol present
- You may know some members of your family use drugs, and you’re as certain as you can be they’ll be using at the event
- There may be family members there who are not speaking to you because of things you did while you were drinking or using drugs
- There may be family members there who do not know you quit drinking or using drugs. They many not have known you had a problem in the first place
Those are all perfectly valid reasons to avoid family events this summer – especially the first two. If you know – and your therapists/counselors agree – that your family is part of the problem and should be avoided, then please, avoid the barbecues.
Otherwise, we think you should go.
Rebuilding Your Social Network
Many people who are new to recovery say they feel like they’ve been reborn. Not in a religious way – although some people definitely do find religion during recovery – but in a fresh start or a life-do-over kind of way. Most people who feel this way are grateful, because often, they’ve made mistakes or caused harm to their friends and family while they were in active addiction.
If that’s you, then we urge you to look at all these summer events as opportunities. We won’t get too deep into 12-step language here – if you’re in treatment, you know what we’re talking about – but every event with family and friends is a chance for you to make amends. If it’s appropriate and causes no harm, it’s the perfect time for you to mend fences, build bridges, re-establish lines of communication, and live the values you’re establishing for yourself in recovery.
Some family members might not want to talk to you. You may try to speak to them about your past behavior, and they might not be the least bit interested. And that’s their right. However, that does not mean your work is through. Whether they’ll engage with you about your past behavior or not, there are ways you can show them you’ve changed.
Restoring Relationships: Small Steps
Often, family and friends just need to see you doing the right thing before they want to let you back in. And by right thing, we don’t mean big ones. We mean the little things. For instance, you can help with:
- Setting up
You can also:
- Play with the kids
- Empty the garbage
- Clear the table
The key here is to do it all without being asked. And to do it joyfully. Also, depending on your specific situation and backstory, just showing up and participating fully can be the first step in reconnecting with family members – especially those who are reluctant to give you another chance. Here’s another thing you’ll learn in recovery: you can’t control their reaction to your or their attitude toward you, but you can control the things you say and do. And if, in the past, you’ve behaved in less-than-stellar ways in front of your family, these summer events are your chance to show everyone you’ve changed. Acting, speaking, and behaving appropriately and respectfully will go a long, long way toward getting back in your family’s good graces – if that’s something that will support your recovery and you want to do.
Your Best Self
You have a new life: a sober life. Part of building a sober life is learning how to socialize and participate in common events without alcohol or drugs. That’s a lot different than suffering through them until you can get away to get drunk or high, and it’s also a lot different than being drunk or high at these typical family/summer events. Before, addicted you was there. Now, the real you gets to go. Yes, the real you. You have a chance to bring yourself completely to each barbecue, pool party, or holiday and show everyone who you are. It may take them a while to believe it – it may even take you a while to believe it – but the best way to prove you’ve really changed is by displaying appropriate behavior consistently over time.
You took a risk when you began your recovery journey – and it paid off.
Now you can take a risk and show people the new you.
We bet they’ll be impressed.