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  • Writer's pictureAuthor: Angelique Zaks, LSW, LCADC-I

Maintaining a Healthy Relationship with Drinking During Summer Celebrations

Maintaining a Healthy Relationship with Drinking During Summer Celebrations

summer cocktails

Summertime--- a time associated with warm days, sandy beach vacations, and of course, celebrations. Maybe the celebrations are  holidays, such as the Fourth of July or Labor Day Weekend, or perhaps they are  cozy backyard barbeques or nights out with friends. What remains the same among these occasions are consistent: feelings of excitement, energy, and the intention to celebrate this time of the year to the fullest.

Of course, in the majority of cultures worldwide, celebration may also be synonymous with spirits; the presence of alcohol or other substances. Oftentimes, the use of them are seen as the ultimate symbol of fun; a reliable enhancement tool. With the way our culture romanticizes the use of substances  on those warm, summer nights, it makes perfect sense why some of us find ourselves struggling more this time of the year, to maintain a healthy relationship with our alcohol use! 

Despite these social and cultural expectations leaving quite a stark impact, this does not mean that we cannot establish a healthy relationship with drinking this summer! This post may help you begin with reflecting on your goals for healthier drinking behaviors, by providing several strategies that are important for such changes to be made.

Identifying the Goal:

Among the very first steps of any behavior change requires the setting of a goal: arguably the most important step to improve your relationship with drinking. After all, how is a person supposed to establish any kind of change to their habits or behaviors without identifying what the goal is? In this case, beginning with the concept of “wanting a healthy relationship with drinking during summer celebrations” is a great way to start. But setting goals can’t stop there. So, what’s next?

Within my work with clients, operationally defining the “problem” or “change behavior” is one of the very first steps after setting an attainable goal.. Coming up with a clear definition for “healthy relationship” is essential. For you in particular, what does a “healthy relationship” mean? Does it mean using more mindfully? Does it mean using less times throughout the week, or perhaps less quantities per celebratory event? Does it mean not feeling like you “need” a drink for every social event?

SMART goals is a tool taught by motivational coaches and therapists, (standing for This acronym stands for Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.. Below is an example of how to utilize this tool.

Example: “I am going to reduce the quantity of alcohol I drink during the summer (Specific). I will limit myself to two drinks each time I am at a celebratory event (Measurable), which I think is more than a good enough compromise (Achievable) I will not make a pact to be abstinent as I do not think I will keep to this goal (Realistic), and I will do this for the remainder of the summertime, about two months (Timely), and reevaluate around that time.”

Know Your Why’s and What’s. 

Asking yourself “why” is an incredibly important part of creating a healthier relationship with drinking this summer. Much like setting your personalized definition of “healthy relationship”, it is important to understand why you are setting this goal. Asking yourself the following questions may assist you in developing appropriate goals to improve your drinking habits, in addition to helping you keep to these goals. 

  1. Why am I setting this goal?

  2. Is this something I want?

  3. What things could I gain from setting and achieving this goal(s)?

  4. What are some things I could lose, and/or feel if I continue with my current habits, or revert back to them?

These “why’s” and “what’s” are better explained when understanding your motivation for change: (a topic that will be discussed further in its own post, coming soon…)

Drinking  Fun. 

Perhaps it feels that you “need” a drink to have fun, but reframing our thoughts is a start to deconstructing this narrative. In my work, I help my clients come to the conclusion that it is not that drinking itself that is fun, but rather the way it enhances the experiences that are already fun; comradery with friends, good food, late nights outdoors; these are all things that can absolutely be enjoyed and experienced fully, with or without the presence of alcohol. The change to your drinking behavior will not take those experiences away from you!… In fact, I can make the argument that those feelings of excitement, love, fun, relaxation, etc… could be experienced even more fully! 

Reminder to Self: Alcohol is a Toxin!

It is a fact that alcohol has the properties of a depressant, and is interpreted by the body as a toxin, which can have negative physical and mental consequences when ingested frequently. The “fun” the intoxication of alcohol brings is short-lived, but continues to hinder the Central Nervous System to depress the body for much longer with effects such as slowing down brain activity, reducing control or coordination, and impairing memory. With even one small change to your drinking habits, such as slowing down a little or taking a day off, you are more likely to remember everything that happened the night prior, making it possible for the summer memories that come from these celebrations to become lifelong, happy memories. And, not to mention, reduced physical or emotional hangover symptoms; nobody wants to feel hang-xiety the day of a vacation or holiday weekend.

Know Your Limits

Understanding your limitations is important in any goal setting and behavior changing experience. Building awareness, (also known as mindfulness) of what is realistic and comfortable for you is essential in this process. For example, (using our example we created using the SMART template earlier in this post), if we know that two drinks is only going to lead to unhealthy decisions/behaviors, then perhaps using that awareness to set realistic goals is important.. Another example includes knowing the environments that allow for you to have healthier drinking behaviors.. If you are truly interested in being consistent in this goal, think about what people, places, and events may compromise it. For example, if you, the reader, know that a certain family event or night out to the bar with friends will result in you failing to achieve your goal, then maybe skip that event: you do not need to be present at every function this summer (the FOMO will pass!) You can also use the folllowing strategies:

  1. Exit Plan: Bring your own car or method of transportation. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, you have an easy, comfortable out.

  2. Utilize Support: Identify one friend or family member you may confide in at the function, or perhaps it will need to be reachable by phone. This may also include aligning yourself with a “positive” influence that shares your goals and/or will not pressure you into disregarding your “why’s” and “what’s”. 

  3. “Play the Tape”: A proven strategy used and beloved by myself and those in the recovery community. It requires  yourself, “the last time I experienced [ my behavior prior to setting a goal/disregarding the consequences ] how did this turn out for me? Focusing on the thoughts, feelings, and behavior that occurred historically, and even thinking about the thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that are likely to occur if you proceed with going back on your goals, is one of the best strategies in assisting you to stay on track.(P.S. this can be applied to any behavior change goal, including personal health goals like dieting, exercise, etc.)

Knowing Your Alternatives

Setting a goal without an alternative desired behavior may be setting yourself up for a challenge. 

  1. Alternative drinks to alcohol may be a great way to still feel like you’re rewarding yourself on a fun summer night. Who’s to say you can’t still enjoy a nice cold drink every night, or multiple for that matter? You deserve a sweet treat.

  2. Rewarding yourself for reaching your goals isa fantastic way to continue positively reinforcing your progress. What would you like to do for yourself when you reach your goals? A nice dinner? Spa day? 

  3. Spending time with friends or family outside of the “regular rotation” can be a good practice. Is there anyone else you could reconnect with this summer one time, that would make it easier for you to skip that booze-heavy celebration?

  4. Self care. Tending to health-related goals (leave early and getting some sleep, having a movie night, etc.) can be extremely helpful. Catching up on some sleep may initially feel boring compared to that celebratory event, but you may find yourself surprised at the enjoyment that comes with spending a night in and thank yourself the next morning. 

Reframing your relationship with drinking may be further explored and accomplished within therapy. This, along with the opportunity to explore your motivators for change, may be one of many reasons that setting up an appointment today could be your first step on your journey of self-improvement. If you or a loved one may be interested in an initial consultation, call us now.


Happy summer, and happy celebrating!


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