I hate to tell you this, but summer is almost over. As searing summer days give way to crisp fall and winter evenings, the changing seasons are nature’s way of telling us to get back to business. Weekends filled with boats, beaches, and bathing suits are soon replaced by campfires, jackets, and pumpkin spice lattes. For many people, the impending holiday season is an exciting time of year, full of revelry and celebration with family, friends, and loved ones. But for those of us in recovery, the stress of the holiday season, combined with dropping temperatures and shorter days, can create a perfect storm of isolation, depression, and potential relapse.
Luckily, the changing seasons also offer many ways to combat the winter blues, as long as you know where to look. Fall and winter offer tons of opportunities for fun, adventure, spiritual growth, and self-improvement. From fun fall outings with friends and family, to autumn crafts and productive indoor hobbies, the colder months are brimming with fun and interesting ways to strengthen your spiritual condition, renew your program, and connect with the world around you.
Take a Field Trip
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for people in recovery is boredom. As summer draws to a close, it’s easy to say “there’s nothing to do when it’s cold outside.” Not true! Fall is a perfect time to explore the world around you, whether you stay close to home or travel hours away. The dazzling colors of autumn’s changing leaves inspires hundreds of alcohol- and drug-free events in cities and rural areas alike.
Take some time to search local events boards and community calendars and look for fun sober events in your area. These events are a great for families and groups of sober friends. Corn mazes, leaf-peeping, pumpkin and apple picking, arts and crafts events, food tasting events, ghost tours, and haunted houses are just the beginning.
Join a Group, Meet New People
For those of us in recovery, the transition from summer to fall brings another change: interest in recovery goes up seemingly overnight. Whether it’s old-timers and regular meeting-goers returning home from their summer vacations, or newcomers and first-timers who have been beaten by summer’s permissive party-all-the-time attitude, fall brings with it a huge influx of people curious about recovery.
This period of increased interest in recovery is the perfect time to meet some new people and grow your recovery network. Go to your favorite meetings and sober network hot spots and reach out. Old-timers and newcomers each have something to offer to your recovery, so talk to everybody. Fall is a great time to forge new relationships that will carry your sobriety through the cold months ahead.
Volunteer Your Time
By the time winter is in full swing, the short days, sub-freezing temperatures, and winter drear leaves many people in recovery wanting to just stay home and hibernate under a blanket until spring. And while a couple cozy nights in front of a roaring fire can be therapeutic, the isolation that winter brings can be toxic to a program of recovery. Complacency is easy to justify when it’s 20º outside, but beware the slippery slope. For many addicts and alcoholics, complacency is a path to relapse.
One of the best ways to combat complacency is to volunteer your time helping other addicts recover. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, take a commitment at a 12-step group, join a recovery outreach program, or find a local community center and get involved. Volunteering offers a sense of purpose and a feeling of responsibility that becomes a great reason to get out of the house when it’s so cold out that all you want to do is get in bed and watch TV.
Invigorate Your Mind, Body, and Soul
As we mentioned above, complacency is the enemy of recovery. Instead of giving up and staying inside all winter, let the seasonal transition inspire a transition in your recovery. As summer gives way to fall, try something new that inspires your recovery and makes you feel good on a daily basis.
Explore exercise regimens that encourage mindfulness and focus like meditation, tai chi, yoga, martial arts, or organized workout programs like Crossfit or Pilates. These programs have a multitude of benefits for individuals in recovery. Focus and mindfulness encourage inner peace, while physical exercise is proven to reduce anxiety and stress and promote healthier sleep. Group exercise classes are also a great place to meet people who value a healthy, mindful lifestyle. Forming relationships with people on the “up elevator” can be inspiring, driving you to work harder to achieve your goals.
While it’s important to exercise your body, it’s equally important to exercise your mind. Look for creative and cerebral hobbies that will keep you occupied all winter long. Hobbies like table gaming, creative writing, book clubs, or learning a musical instrument are a great way to stimulate your mind and blow off a little steam. Craft-based hobbies like knitting, painting, and cooking classes are a great way to relax while creating a tangible result that you can be proud of. Best of all, most hobbies have associated social clubs where people get together and share their creativity and passion. These clubs are a great place to meet healthy, inspired people and learn new techniques and share the results of your hard work.
While we contemplate the transition from summer into fall, remember that recovery from alcohol and drug addiction isn’t seasonal – it’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, one day at a time. While our commitment to our own recovery may ebb and flow with the seasons, addiction and relapse are always close at hand. If you find yourself struggling, please contact your recovery coach, sober companion, sponsor, a trusted sober friend, or anyone who can help you stay clean and sober – just for today.