The Cottage, the BBQ’s, the Patio’s, Oh My!

There exists a Canadian cultural norm where a beer, or two, is an integral part of summer. While a majority of people can socially enjoy alcohol, there are also those who cannot, by choice or otherwise. Working in the addictions field for the last 9 years, I have learned that there are two times a year when those who struggle with alcohol use, have the hardest time: Christmas and Patio Season.

Summer activities like BBQ’s, weddings, and those patios, can often be high-risk situations and a source of frustration. Many of my client’s often feel isolated and tell me they won’t be able to enjoy the summer “like everybody else.” However with some reassurance, a list of coping strategies, and a little bit of willpower, the summer can be just as fun, (and a whole lot cheaper!).

Over the years, clients have shared with me many different coping strategies that have worked for them, either to maintain their abstinence or to help them stay within their chosen limits.

  • Say NO (white lies are acceptable here; I’m on medication, I have a gluten intolerance)
  • Drink lower percentage of beer, buy a 12-pack instead of a 24, forego the hard stuff
  • BYOB; you’re in control of the alcohol content and the number of drinks you consume
  • Drink from that red cup or wine glass, but drink pop or juice instead – no one will know
  • Eat and/or drink non-alcoholic beverages in between each alcoholic drink
  • Arrive early at the party and leave early; arrive late at the party and leave early
  • Offer to be the DD – instant friend to many and you just saved lives

Like any coping strategy, some will work, other’s will not, it takes practice and some creativity. I also like to remind client’s of two things:

  1. If you have a medical condition not conducive to drinking (liver disease), you’re taking medication that interacts with alcohol, or have legal issues (DUI’s), drinking is not recommended. And
  2. People really don’t care as much as we think they do about our alcohol choices – if you are feeling pressured or are given a hard time about your decisions, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the situation and those who are in it. 

If you are finding it difficult to stay within your personal drinking limits or you are worried about someone else’s drinking, please seek support and guidance from either your Family GP, or therapists like me.

I hope you have an awesome, fun, and safe summer!

~Jordan Smith, MSW, RSW

About the author ...

Jordan Smith received her Masters of Social work from the University of Toronto, specializing in both mental health and addictions. Jordan is focused on compassionate, strength-based, and client-centred care all while using a motivational and recovery-orientated approach.