The holiday season can be a very challenging time for recovering addicts and alcoholics. Endless social events, shopping, expectations from friends and family, and memories of drug and alcohol use during this time are all stressors that can trigger a relapse. While stressful for most, the holiday season doesn’t have to be at odds with your commitment to staying sober, but it is a time to be extra thoughtful about your recovery.
Staying Sober During the Holidays
Recognizing that the risks of relapse are higher during this time, and planning for yourself is one of the best ways you can keep on track as you prepare to celebrate the holidays while maintaining sobriety. Tips for staying sober throughout the holiday season will help make staying sober manageable and gratifying.
Having a few lines ready for when you may have to turn down a drink or turn down a holiday party altogether, can make these instances of temptation less stressful. Unless you feel comfortable doing so, you do not have to disclose that you’re in recovery to everyone you encounter. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you don’t want to have that drink. A simple “No thank you, but I’ll take a Diet Coke,” is sufficient. Being prepared and planning for what you’ll say will make staying sober over the holidays much less stressful. Taking someone from your recovery support group is always a good option and can help make the event enjoyable.
Remind yourself why staying sober is important to you.
Think about why you decided to enter recovery, write it down, and carry it with you (I am in recovery because my quality of life depends on it). When the temptation to consume drugs or alcohol arises, you can read this to yourself, reminding you why you must say now.
Similarly, you can write a letter to yourself from your future, still sober self (How I made it through the holiday season sober). List the things you will do to make this time enjoyable, healthy, sober and why it’s important to you. Read it when you’re feeling especially vulnerable and need a reminder.
Choose holiday parties wisely.
The holidays are a time spent with friends and family, so avoiding every party you receive an invitation too is not realistic. Occasionally, there will be gatherings that are important to you – that you wish to attend – where alcohol will be flowing freely. If you choose to attend a party where alcohol or drugs are present, ask yourself honestly (Do I have a legitimate reason for attending this event?). If the answer is no, then it may be best to steer clear. Staying sober should be the priority, a few hours at a party are not worth the consequences of a relapse.
Plan an escape route.
If you are attending an event where people will be drinking, make sure you can leave if you begin to feel strong urges or simply feel uncomfortable around the other guests. When possible, go with a sober friend so you can keep each other accountable.
Stay away from slippery places.
There is no reason you should stop by an old hangout to say hello, even over the holidays. (remember the number one rule, “they can get me loaded but I can’t get them sober”).
Be careful of overeating.
Of course, the holidays are full of wonderful feasts and treats that should be enjoyed, but be careful of eating so much you feel bad about it. The feeling of guilt can give your addicted brain more reason to return to using. If you are in recovery from food addiction, make sure you plan ahead and reach out to those who support you.
Spend time with people who support your recovery.
Now is a more important time than ever to reach out to friends and family who support your recovery. If you attend meetings—keep going! Those who know about your recovery will not only be happy to support you in your recovery, but they know what you’re going through, which can be very beneficial. Attend sober events in your community and keep a list of at least 5 people you can call if you feel lonely, overwhelmed, or just need someone to talk to about staying sober.
Start new traditions.
Be creative! Host your own sober party, buy a new board game, make holiday crafts, go ice skating, volunteer; the opportunities for sober holiday fun are endless.
Don’t let go of your normal recovery routine over the holidays. Regular exercise, yoga, meditation, and any other activities you use for staying sober on a day to day basis now become even more important. Even if exercise hasn’t been a solid part of your recovery thus far, now is a great time to start! Go for a brisk walk and take in the holiday decorations in your neighborhood, get out your skates, or a hike with friends.
Remember the spirit of gratitude and giving.
Remember the true spirit of the holiday season is that of gratitude and giving. Even if you feel that you don’t have much to give monetarily you can give your time, your kindness, and your smile. Make a daily gratitude list at the beginning or end of each day and name at least 3 things you can be grateful for each day throughout the holiday season.
#livingrecovery is a gift and an accomplishment worth celebrating. This holiday season celebrate all that recovery has brought into your life by renewing your commitment to staying sober. Believe in yourself, start new traditions, and live one day at a time. As the holidays can be a difficult time emotionally, do not be afraid to ask for help if you start feeling down, lonely, guilty, or tempted.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM MULTI CONCEPT RECOVERY