With summer fast approaching, everyone is yearning to finish up with the last of their projects and enjoy a long-awaited and well-deserved summer break. But for kids with a history of substance use, summer also means new opportunities for relapse, and a host of social risks. Facing these properly means being prepared, and ready for what’s to come with a set of sobriety goals.
Each Day Counts
If you’re working towards long-term sobriety as a teen, each day counts. Substance use problems at a young age are even more dangerous than they are in adulthood, and given all the other challenges and pressures facing young people nowadays, an addiction is an additional handicap no one should have to work with.
While the school months give teens some much needed daily structure, summer break means more freedom and more free time. This is great, but without a matching daily structure, that free time can lead to boredom, and worse things. For teens with a history of dual diagnosis, or addiction and a mental health problem, a lack of daily structure can feed into a destructive spiral.
6 Sobriety Goals for Teens this Summer
Personal goal setting helps teens plan ahead, creating a daily schedule to keep themselves busy with what they want to do, improving their self-sufficiency and self-esteem, while helping them become more comfortable with support structures and their newfound sober social network. Let’s go over a few goals teens can set for themselves this summer to nurture their sobriety.
1. Achieve Your Short-Term Sobriety
What is “short-term sobriety” to you? Most of us have a number in mind that might feel difficult to achieve, or scary to overcome.
Reaching that number through day-to-day incremental progress is important, because it teaches us to remember that each day is just like any other, and that it’s not about trying to “last” without drugs for a certain amount of time, but to instead live a sober life with no consideration for how long you’ve been sober, because it doesn’t matter.
Whether it’s a month, three months, or half a year, reaching your first “milestone” helps you realize the ironic importance of the journey over the goal of long-term sobriety.
2. Create A Flexible Fitness Goal
Fitness goals are a great idea for the summer because they incentivize movement, are often concrete (mastering a certain move, reaching a certain level of fitness, beating a certain time, or reaching a certain weight), and can be achieved through day-to-day and week-to-week planning. Whatever your goal may be, pick something specific to the things you enjoy, rather than an arbitrary fitness goal. If you hate running, there’s no reason to try and train for a six-minute mile. Your goals could be subjective or deeply personal, such as mastering a tough dance routine that you’ve always wanted to do or getting closer to a true split.
3. Commit to Greens
Substance use is often conflated with poor nutritional health, in part because good food and a healthy diet may be harder to maintain while addicted, and because many addictive substances either greatly increase or decrease appetite. A healthier body is not just less likely to relapse, but can help you think better, sleep better, perform better, and feel better. And the key to that is good greens.
If you aren’t big on eating vegetables, there are a few ways to incorporate more of them into your diet. Consider working frozen greens into your food plan by making breakfast smoothies with fruits of your choice and some baby spinach.
Experiment with different leafy greens to find the kind that you might like. Did you know that there are far more types of green lettuce than the typical iceberg? Give arugula a try for something spicier or try Swiss chard for a bitter leaf. Improve your salads with a combination of nutritious add-ons, like seared tuna, roasted pumpkin, fresh apple slices, different light cheeses, and interesting homemade dressings, such as orange-wasabi, honey-soy, or garlic-yogurt.
4. Nurture New Friendships
Make time for the people you’ve been meeting through sobriety, especially if you’ve been spending most of your time alone for the last few months. Social interactions are both risk factors and important protective factors for any mental health condition.
Acquaintances, friendships, and deep personal bonds help us improve our emotional health and wellbeing, train our social skills, develop stronger empathic ideas, and become better people – given we’re hanging out with the right people, as well.
5. Keep Learning New Things
While school is all about learning, it’s an entirely different thing to go out of your way to learn a new skill on your own.
Autodidactic skills can greatly improve a person’s cognitive functioning and autonomy and help provide teens with a host of useful life skills, from fact-checking to proper sourcing, research skills, and a more creative mind–not to mention the benefits of the skill itself!
It could range from a neat party trick, such as getting good at darts, to opening new career opportunities through additional language skills or coding practice. It may also help you explore what you want to do later in life by giving you a taste of a variety of different trades and crafts.
6. A Self-Reflection Goal of Your Choice
Not everyone enjoys meditating, but there are certain benefits to taking time out of your day, each day, and dedicating to self-reflection or quiet. If you aren’t inclined towards mindfulness exercises or meditation, consider other forms of self-reflection or relaxation, including yoga, journaling, nature walks, autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), and sky gazing.
Setting Your Own Sobriety Goals
What about setting your own goals? If you have certain specific goals in mind, making them your priority this summer could be a good idea. But you must differentiate between an ambition and a realistic goal.
It’s one thing to aim to be accepted into your one dream college – but it’s smarter to approach this goal as “getting into college”, instead. There’s a great benefit to goal setting in that achieving our goals can help us feel accomplished and fulfilled. But missing the mark can be quite difficult.
Make it a Sober Summer with Your Best Goals
Life will be full of opportunities to go above and beyond and risk missing the mark for a potential shot at something extraordinary, but in the early stages of the recovery process, structuring your sobriety goals modestly is important.
Furthermore, a lot of teens may feel overwhelmed in the day-to-day if their goals are too far-fetched or vague to begin with. Define your end goal, but also determine progress points you might want to meet along the way, as well as a day-to-day plan to help you achieve that progress.
For example, if you have a physical goal – such as looking and feeling healthier – you might consider revisiting and redefining your goal as time goes on, and as the rate at which you are making progress becomes clearer.
A good sobriety goal is not just a single defined endpoint, but a journey you can refer to in smaller, realistic steps to reassure yourself that you’re still on the right path, and to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed.