Coping with End-of-Summer Transitions
Stress is a major factor in most cases of addiction relapse. Life transitions are by definition stressful. So it follows that anyone in recovery, and especially in the early stages, does well to approach transition periods with extra caution.
That also applies to “regular” transition periods such as the end of summer. Illogical as it is, many people—knowing full well what things happen consistently at the same times every year—continue to react as if those things couldn’t possibly have been anticipated.
So the first rule of minimizing stress during the end-of-vacation, back-to-school period is:
Plan Your Calendar in Advance
Hopefully, you already have started your autumn preparations. If not, here are a few things to put on your next-few-weeks schedule right away:
- Confirm your furnace is in working order, your chimney is clean, and your home is well insulated. (Unless you’re an expert do-it-yourselfer, the best time to do this is while the weather is still hot, before service providers are inundated with last-minute calls.)
- Air out your cool-weather clothes. Make sure they are in good condition and still fit.
- If anyone is starting a new school year, check the school website(s) for “what parents/students need to know” guidelines.
- Budget for all of the above. (And consider whether you spent too much on summer indulgences and should save more for fall next year.)
And to prepare for shorter periods of daylight:
- If you’ve been spending evenings outdoors, decide what indoor activities will now occupy those hours. You don’t want to leave a vacuum that will fill up with boredom and temptations.
- If commute hours will soon have everyone in your home returning from work after sunset, consider installing photosensitive lights or a timer so you won’t have to come home to a pitch-black walkway and house.
- If your regular commute route leads down dimly lit streets after dark, the time to consider alternate routes or travel methods is before you get seriously nervous. Anxiety ignored too long may persist as a habit—and a temptation generator—long after the original cause for concern is eliminated.
- Consider whether convenience stores and restaurants along your route, even if they’ve never presented temptation in daylight, might turn on conspicuously lit “BEER” or “BAR” signs after dark.
Be Ready for Back-to-School Season
Even if you personally have no school-age kids, we all share public areas with back-to-school sales, school zones, and school busses. And if you live in a college town, both motor and pedestrian traffic will likely increase substantially.
Plan in advance for longer commute times. Know where the school zones are, and when they are in effect: you can’t always trust school-zone signs to activate flashers on schedule. Remember, if you have DUI offenses on your record, the law will likely come down harder on you for any violation.
On foot, you can minimize risk of being trampled by back-to-school shoppers if you avoid stores holding large and well-publicized sales. Also, dodge the worst crowds by shopping at off-peak hours—early on weekend mornings is best.
And if you do have your own kids starting a new school year, here are some hints to make the transition easier for you both:
- The best-advertised school-supplies sale isn’t always the best money-saver, especially after you factor in travel. Consider whether you might get better deals at “ordinary” discount stores or supermarkets.
- Do your school-supply shopping in stages—a few items a week, combined with other outings. Or, order supplies online.
- Consider seriously whether to do back-to-school shopping with or without the kids. Find out if they really want to go and how far they trust you to choose school gear for them. If you do make it a shared outing, plan it together and include an extra stop with a “pure fun” element.
- After elementary school, kids typically prefer to do their own shopping. This is a good thing more often than not, as it encourages responsibility. Do discuss any safety concerns and how much of your money they can spend; but make it a real discussion, with two-way input.
- If you’re sending children off to college, your personal experience with addiction probably has you doubly worried about how well they’ll handle temptation. Besides helping them plan how they’ll deal with tough situations (chemical-related and otherwise), encourage them to get involved with an Al-Anon or similar group on campus.
Enter the New “Meetings Year” with Caution
Besides being the time students start a new school year, late August to early September is the time most clubs and committees start fresh cycles of activity. Especially if you have a job or are an active member of a religious congregation, you may be bombarded with “join” and “volunteer” requests at this time.
Think hard—and get input from your support network—before saying “yes” to any new request. Ideally, do this even before resuming a former activity, especially if you started recovery over the summer. Trying to “do everything and be everything” puts anyone in a high-risk category for relapse, and if you aren’t careful, “a few” extra things can domino into overwhelm with no apparent warning.
On the other hand, your support group and relapse-prevention plan may already have confirmed this is a good time for you to move to new levels of responsibility. In that case, instead of waiting for the best option to find you, take up your “proactive” reins and decide for yourself what (and how many) activities will allow you to make your best possible contributions. Often, just having a clear idea of what you’re looking for, and sharing it with acquaintances, will start doors opening. If you need a little more help than that, check activity databases such as Meetup.com, or run a Google search for “[activity] groups [your geographical area].”
One Final Hint
And to keep the all-too-common “What?! School starts in August–September this year??!!” trap from catching you again, save this article and make a note in your calendar to read it again in ten months!
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