Sober Summer Me!
April 22, 2015 2:36 AM   Subscribe

So I'm going to a 30-day alcohol rehab soon, and will be starting graduate school in the fall. What should I do in the months between to stay on the good path?

So I've been living abroad for the past couple years in a place that worsened my drinking problem. I've recently returned to my hometown in my native land, with the intent to stop using alcohol and to get some sober-time under my belt before beginning grad school this fall. Since returning, I've found an appropriate rehab and have plans to enter it soon.

My question is: what should do I for the summer after I'm out?

Currently, the plan is to live with my parents (or perhaps extended family) in my hometown while waiting for the start of school. This troubles me for a couple of reasons, as 1. the place they live (suburban New England) is intensely boring; 2. I don't have any friends, social life or routine here anymore; and 3. the thought of living as a dependent in one of their stressful houses for an extended period is depressing, demoralizing and not encouraging of recovery. Specifically item 3, as my parents have my two adult siblings already living with them, and the household dynamic is, at-best, stressful, and at worst co-dependent, dysfunctional and toxic.

So I'm looking for some advice on what to do with myself during this lull in my life.

What I want are suggestions of places and activities that are cost-neutral (i.e., I will earn a pittance to support myself or earn my keep in some volunteering program) and something of a romantic way to spend the last summer of my twenties.

What did you do in your early days of sobriety? What did you do during a transitional time in your life?

Here are the sorts of experiences I have kicking around in my head:
-working in a beach town restaurant for the summer, like Anthony Bourdain's time in Provincetown, MA
-picking applies in in the Pacific NW, ala David Sedaris

I'm looking for recommendations of a quiet, interesting place that has seasonal, low-skill jobs that won't be too difficult to get. Location-wise, I'd like something on the East Coast of the US. (Although I mentioned the Pacific NW in the list above, that was more about the tone of what I want to do and not the location.) Work-wise, I want menial labor that will fill my days, give me structure in my life and cover my modest living expenses.

Also: While I enjoy the idea of travelling around for the whole summer, and feel that it would be helpful, I've done a bunch of it during my time abroad and don't really have money for it at this time.

Thanks in advance!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely do not work in a restaurant if you want to avoid exposure to drugs and alcohol.

What about looking for work with a landscaping company or nursery (the plant and flower kind, not the baby kind)?
posted by amro at 3:04 AM on April 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

RA at a kids' summer camp? Some are pretty alcoholic, but I suppose it depends on the camp.
posted by crazy with stars at 4:30 AM on April 22, 2015

I bore down hard at work trying to do well, I started taking long walks outside, I stayed in touch with my support system every day, I journaled, I started practicing musical instruments again, and I did stuff like go to bed as soon as I came home and get up after the liquor store closed on days when I felt like that was what I needed to do. The approach that works is to make staying sober your absolute number one priority.
posted by thelonius at 4:34 AM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

WOOFing sounds like a really, really good option if you can find a good position. You'll have healthy active days where the time is fairly structured, you'll be clearly accomplishing something each day, you will be with others as much or little as you choose, and you'll be in a new place and new vocation that can disrupt your old habits. I've had friends who have had amazing experiences, but you do need to be careful because some WOOFing bosses can be awful (just like any job). So take a look and see what might be available.
posted by goggie at 5:06 AM on April 22, 2015

What did you do in your early days of sobriety?

Well, no offense, but I stopped making plans.

Basically, I got out of my 30-day program and immediately moved into a quasi-controlled "sober living" arrangement: shared housing with a bunch of fellow (presumably) sober people, with rules and simple responsibilities. This was in a new place where I didn't know anyone, for whatever that's worth. (I think your instinct is right, regarding living with family, even if your family were perfect; that's just a step backward, and not what you need right now.)

After a bit less than a month, I found a very basic entry-level job that wasn't in foodservice (my former field, and -- generally speaking -- a horrible choice for recovering addicts). I waited those few weeks to find a job because I wanted to just spend time being quiet and getting my footing. Too many addicts try to fill space in early recovery, whether via an intense work schedule, an immediate return to higher education, or jumping into the first romantic relationship that'll have them. These choices aren't always disastrous, but they frequently are.

Was living with a rotating cast of newly-sober dudes intensely irritating at times? Oh, you bet. Was giving up my illusion of control (extensive planning, worries about social schedules, etc.) kind of fundamentally uncomfortable? Yes. But it was all very much worth it, in retrospect. After a while, my entry-level job became a management situation, and no-dating turning into very-rewarding-relationships. But stillness and (some form of) surrender needed to happen first.

I know it's not feasible for everyone, but my general advice to folks entering recovery is to clear their "schedule" entirely. Leave whatever employment you may still have. Politely, of course, and explaining why if you can (and if it isn't already glaringly obvious). Suspend your schooling for a minute. Expend as little worry as possible about the next activity. Just free yourself up to experience what you need to experience -- as opposed to what you expect or demand to experience -- at least for a little while.

There's a significant lag between physically getting sober and mentally thinking soberly. It takes time (many people report about a year) before you can make sane decisions, at least on a consistent basis.
posted by credible hulk at 5:38 AM on April 22, 2015 [14 favorites]

Something to keep in mind is that rehab isn't in-and-out and you're cured - it's the start of a lifelong new way of living. Once you get out of your 30 day stint in rehab, they'll strongly recommend that you attend meetings (AA, RR, SMART, meditation, individual therapy, combination thereof) - this is what long-term recovery is made of. Your treatment center will know best, so definitely run your idea by them; they may have some ideas and suggestions and connections for your next steps in a place where you can access these aftercare programs and transition to maintenance in the form of meetings. In my opinion, a landing place in relative isolation (WWOOF, a camp) might make your early days in recovery difficult just due to lack of recovery maintenance options. If people could just go to rehab and then stop drinking forever without any more work on sobriety and recovery afterwards, the world would have a very different alcoholism landscape.

Congratulations on making this huge decision, by the way. Deciding you're ready to quit is a huge, awesome step and it's nothing to minimize.
posted by juniperesque at 5:38 AM on April 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

Get a hold of a comps reading list for your subject and plow through it. Hitting the ground running in grad school is a huge advantage since success is mostly about maintaining momentum. Don't worry about understanding, remembering or completing it. Just read. You will absorb a lot even without realizing it and subsequent reading will make much more sense. You will also feel like less of an imposter when you get to grad school.

Develop a strong fitness habit that you can maintain during non-work hours (early morning or after work hours) for the rest of your life. Make your body feel good and your mind will hopefully follow. Make sure you do it during times you will be able to do it while you are in grad school or working otherwise the habit may break when you have a more restricted schedule.

Find an inexpensive hobby. Everybody needs an escape. I forgot how to enjoy myself while in grad school and it took me years to figure out how to relax again. Cycling or hiking might work in New England during the summer.
posted by srboisvert at 5:54 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Utah is gorgeous in the mountains and a larger proportion of the population does not drink compared to other places. I think surrounding yourself with people who don't drink is key. Resorts tend to draw in college students during the summer, which may be perilous but perhaps a resort that focuses on physical fitness (anywhere) would be a safer bet. I found this site that posts resort jobs in Utah.
posted by waving at 6:14 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest working at a summer camp as well. There are a variety of job options, not just counselor. Some examples of jobs.
posted by gudrun at 6:44 AM on April 22, 2015

A friend of mine did the 90 meetings in 90 days thing after she got out of rehab. She's still sober 2.5 years later (and that had been the second time she had to go to rehab). She really attributes her success to doing that and still goes to meetings quite regularly.
posted by jillithd at 7:00 AM on April 22, 2015

Do you run? Take up running, yoga, or some sort of physical exercise. You're going to be craving that endorphin rush something fierce for a while there, and it's important that you have an answer to that craving before it hits.

Get hooked up with the local recovery community. Schedule yourself to keep from isolating. Make friends, have phone numbers, that sort of thing.

Take a look at meetup. Sign up for everything that seems vaguely interesting in your area. Again, this is for purposes of being scheduled. You also might discover interests you never really knew you had. By the time I got around to quitting, I had long since abandoned hobbies. My new ones are really awesome, and surprised even me.

Good luck to you. If you work at least half as hard at staying sober as you did at staying drunk, you should be fine.
posted by Gilbert at 7:17 AM on April 22, 2015

Kudos to you for taking action to deal with this challenge. I'll have two years sober in a couple of weeks, and found that working was really useful for getting out of my own head after I was in treatment. However, if you are anything like me, the early period is going to be an emotional rollercoaster, so I would suggest something that is not terribly involved, such as a fairly routine retail job.

As others have said, getting some type of ongoing support network (be it AA/NA/SmartRecovery/SoS/etc.) will probably be much more important that what job you take. For me, getting an AA sponsor and doing step work proved to be invaluable, giving me a structured way to put ongoing effort into my sobriety - especially in those unsteady early days.
posted by unposted letter at 2:12 PM on April 22, 2015

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