While the holidays are known for being one of the most joyful times of the year, it also comes with its own stresses. Stress is a well-known risk factor in addiction relapse, and during this time it’s important to actively combat holiday stresses to prevent a back step from your progress. Holiday sobriety is not only possible, it’s crucial for a life of fulfilling experiences. How can you navigate this festive-yet-stressful time of year without using?
Like recovery itself, it’s simple, but not easy. If you think you are at risk for substance misuse, be realistic about how the holidays can increase your anxiety and stress and lead to dangerous behavior. Keep in mind that some of the greatest joy in your life has come from sobriety, so it’s important to protect yourself from relapse during this season of merriment where the alcohol flows more readily than usual.
The number of challenges to your recovery can be daunting, between family gatherings, parties where alcohol is present, and emotional triggers such as stress and sadness related to past memories. You can build resistance to these triggers by preparing a plan.
10 Ways to Maintain Holiday Sobriety
Have a Plan
Before the holiday parties and events begin, develop a plan to protect your sobriety. This can include not relying on someone else for transportation, attending a meeting ahead of the event, and having a solid escape plan if you feel overwhelmed or vulnerable. Always take your own vehicle to holiday parties so YOU can control your destiny. Make healthy choices about the events you choose to attend. If you know that a particular party or gathering will be centered around drinking or substances, choose not to go. Attend an event instead that’s more centered around sober activities with friends and family. Consider skipping an event if the risk is too great. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t strong enough to go. But that you are stronger than ever before for recognizing the dangers involved. As time passes certain events and situations will become more manageable when you have more recovery time behind you.
Avoid Relapse Triggers
Of all triggers, the most significant can be emotional triggers. No matter if you are in recovery or not, the holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year. With so many activities squeezed into one month, our normal routines get disrupted and people get frustrated and anxious. During this time we know that there are increased demands from your spouse, partner or other family members, and this can put serious stress on your sobriety. This can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, humiliation, embarrassment, anger and depression. The holidays don’t have to be “perfect” and just like previous years. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Saying “no” is perfectly acceptable and it will protect you and your holiday sobriety.
Find the Help You Need From Friends
The holidays are the time to surround yourself with the people you care about most, and when you’re in recovery this is more important than ever before. You do not have to go it alone. Consider bringing a sober friend with you to events. There is strength in numbers, and two people in recovery are stronger than one. If you have a sponsor, let them know in advance about the event you’re attending so you can call him or her if you need support. Having someone else holding you accountable for your actions will require you to step up when things get difficult. Just because we get sober doesn’t mean we automatically know how to balance our emotions and make the right decision in every situation. It’s important that you share your feelings with people you trust when you are feeling down, when you’re feeling out of balance, or when you’re on the verge of a backstep.
BYOSB (soft beverages) & Be Prepared to Say No
BYOB, right? Only this time, make it a 12-pack of soda or other non-alcoholic beverage. Remember, it’s not the host of the party’s responsibility to keep you sober—it’s yours. Make sure there’s a non-alcoholic alternative by bringing your own beverage. Chances are, there will be other people at the party that will appreciate the option. This also serves as a good excuse for not accepting other drink offers. Whether you choose to talk about your sobriety or not, be ready with an answer you feel comfortable sharing when someone tries to pass you that drink or a relative has questions. And, the truth of the matter is, people never really notice or pay attention to what’s in your glass. It’s up to you to hold yourself accountable, and this is one of the easiest ways to do so.
Find and Create New Traditions to Maintain Holiday Sobriety
This season is for celebrating, and sobriety is a huge milestone to celebrate! Celebrate the fact you are reestablishing control over your own life. As you affirm your new self on these festive days, you are choosing to celebrate the new, better, clean, and sober life that you have created. Holiday sobriety is something wonderful to be thankful for. This might mean hosting a sober, festive gathering with friends in recovery. It may mean volunteering to serve at local 12-Step support groups. Remember, giving is one of the best things you can do during the holidays. In many families, getting together for the holidays means sitting around and drinking. Investigate other options now. Movies, museums, holiday concerts, skating, walks, sledding, sports events can all help fill the time and limit stress. If the weather keeps you inside, suggest activities that will keep everyone busy and focused, such as decorating holiday cookies, board games, or old movies.
Self Care First
This goes for any time in sobriety, but especially for holiday sobriety. If you find your mind racing about the possibility of alcohol or drugs at an upcoming event, listen to your intuition. Limit the amount of time you spend with relatives who up your anxiety or drive you crazy. This type of stress can lead us to rationalize and convince ourselves we are entitled to a drink. Instead, surround yourself with supportive loved ones. If there is a holiday party where people are drinking and it makes you feel comfortable, leave. In sobriety, we have choices, and it’s your choice to not participate in anything that might make you feel uncomfortable. There are things you can do every day to take care of your mind and body during this difficult time. Daily meditation, exercise and healthy eating go a long way in nourishing your mind, body, and spirit
Stay Grateful for your Holiday Sobriety
Those of us who are recovering addicts might already be familiar with the importance of gratitude thanks to the help of 12-step programs and support groups. At first, we wake up every day thankful to still be alive. Every new morning we don’t wake up hungover is another huge check off the gratitude list. Now that you’re not spending the holidays inebriated or mentally asleep, you can be fully alert to see the celebration for what it really is. Instead of focusing on getting your next hookup or planning where to get high, you can show up fully sober and experience a holiday completely present. Plus, you’ll have these special times to keep as memories for the rest of your life.
Take A New Perspective
Focus on celebrating yourself and your recovery during the holiday season! It’s a special time to take pride in yourself and your accomplishments. Challenge yourself to think more about what you’re gaining when you’re sober rather than what you feel you’re giving up. When you’re not drinking or drugging, you’re more present and engaged in activities with your spouse, your friends, and your family. You will maintain more positive memories during this time when you are sober. Remember, there are so many others out there who are staying sober this holiday season. No matter what stage of recovery you are in, it is important to plan ahead so that you feel confident in resisting alcohol. The holidays do not last forever, and soon you will resume your “normal” life. Remind yourself that it feels good to be sober. You can do this!
If You Are Struggling with Addiction or Holiday Sobriety, Consider Rehab During the Holidays
Remember, in recovery and sobriety, we have a choice. In our addiction, we don’t. Some families might consider the holidays a difficult time to help a loved one get into addiction treatment when, in fact, it could be an ideal opportunity. Difficult times create strength, and this time of the year requires a lot of strength for holiday sobriety. Addiction treatment initiated during the holidays could be the best gift you give to your family, your friends, and yourself. For information on holiday sobriety and recovery, contact Little Creek Recovery.