The holiday season is in full swing; and while many of us look forward to it, this can be a minefield of stress and anxiety for those in recovery. It’s the time of year where you gather with family and friends, attend parties and navigate a world of temptation when it comes to saying “no” drugs and alcohol. Whether you are fresh out of treatment or have years of sobriety under your belt, the holidays can understandingly be a challenge if you’re not prepared or do not have a plan. Here are our best tips for standing strong in your recovery and maintaining your sobriety during the holidays.
Recommit To Yourself
This may seem simple, but making a formal commitment to maintain your sobriety during the holidays is an important first step. Make a list and write down all the reasons you got sober, all the things that you’re grateful for in your sobriety, and why YOU want to stay sober. This is a powerful way to honor the progress you have made and remind yourself why you have chosen the path your on.
Spend Time With Supportive People
If you have not already done it, then make sure that you spend time with people who support your sobriety and who will not undermine or sabotage your recovery. This is not the time to hang out with people you know like to binge drink, or who will tempt you by telling you “it’s ok for just one night” or offer you a few drinks or a bit of weed. Reach out to sober community networks and find local events, and parties that are happening in the recovery community go there instead of falling back into old habits with friends and or family that does not respect that fact you are living a substance-free life.
“‘Bookend” Trigger Events
The simple truth is that no matter how much you may want to avoid people who do not support your recovery it is not always possible as there are often obligations that cannot be ignored. It’s not always possible to sidestep the family function a beer-guzzling parent or pot-smoking cousin will be. Another trap is when you find yourself having to attend an office party where you know the booze will be flowing as inhibitions fly out the door. If this is the case, you can help yourself by “bookending” support for yourself before and after these types of events that you know may trigger your addiction. Whether you go to a 12-step program, talk with a sponsor or other people in recovery, be sure to check in with them before you go to your event, discuss your plans and have an exit strategy for while you are there. Once you are done, be sure to check in with the same person after the event to make sure you are ok.
BYOB (non-alcoholic beverages)
This is a great way to make sure that you have something you feel comfortable drinking at a party or event, and also do something nice for the host and other guests in attendance. You can bring prepackaged beverages such as flavored sparkling water, juices, or herbal tea if it is a larger event with mixed company, or if it is something smaller like a dinner party bring the ingredients required to make mocktails such as virgin sangrias, eggnog, or holiday punch. Make sure you bring enough for you and other people as you may be surprised to find other guests who will appreciate the gesture.
Never Go Solo
No matter where you going always take a partner or friend with you who will also abstain from drinking and help you stay on track while navigating a holiday party. This is good for morale as you have a built-in companion to hang out with and have fun with, and it is also nice because you have some with you to be accountable to.
Don’t Get Caught Off Guard
One thing that invariably happens at parties is that people will ask you why you aren’t drinking alcohol. Although it may be an innocent enough question, if you’re not prepared, it can throw you off guard. The best thing to do is have a response ready and resist the temptation to go into a long explanation about your recovery. Simply say that you’re a designated driver or that you’re “calling get an early evening” and politely decline. Another good tip is to always keep a drink in your hand or at your table that has a beverage in it; even if you are not drinking it so that people don’t keep offering you alcohol.
Avoid Slippery Slopes
This may be a bit of a no-brainer, but you should make an effort to stay away from slippery slopes and avoid people or places that you associate with the time in your life when you were using. This might include bars, restaurants or even events by family and friends. You can counter this by offering to see loved ones in a safe environment by taking them out to coffee, or lunch, or even by hosting your own sober party where you can socialize with them on your own terms in a substance-free environment. It might take a bit of creativity and you may have some people who won’t want to go along, but it’s your best bet in the long run and those who truly care about you should respect and support your decision.
One of the most compelling things you can do during the holidays is decide to get “out of your head” and embrace the power of service by giving back and helping those in need. Volunteer at a shelter, for a local charity or by donating your time. You can also reach out to family, friends, neighbors and/or hospitals and offer your services to help with any projects they may have going on. Giving back has its own intrinsic value and will allow you to stay busy, uplift others, and take the attention off yourself while doing something that matters to those who need help the most.
Do Something Different
The holidays are the perfect time of year to do something different and start a new tradition that is rooted in your sobriety. Start writing a blog or sign up for a community workshop, go camping, horseback riding or fishing or perhaps start a weekly game night for you and your neighbors. It’s very personal what you decide to do, but the sky’s the limit. Make sure your new endeavors include others, are something that you can replicate every year and something you truly enjoy.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, and take the time to check in with yourself to make sure you are doing what you need to take care of yourself first and foremost. The holidays are a great time to reassess your health and maybe join a gym, take a swim glass, or take up jogging again. Book a spa weekend, read a book, meditate or sign up for a cooking class that supports healthy eating. Double down on all the things you do big or small that make you feel good about yourself. There’s nothing more important than nourishing your body and soul to strengthen your resolve in your sobriety during the holidays and beyond.
Consider Rehab or Outpatient Treatment
This may seem like an extreme solution, but going into treatment during the holidays is a viable and appropriate solution if you are afraid that you cannot maintain your sobriety any other way. It is a preemptive course of action that will ensure that you are in a safe environment, surrounded by the support services you need to get you through the tough spots. This is can be valuable no matter what stage of recovery you are in because as addicts there is no guarantee of sobriety and no cure. Recovery takes hard work and commitment and you should never be too prideful or ashamed to ask for help when you feel you are vulnerable. Whether you decide to go into residential rehab for a 1or 2-week refresher or work with a treatment center on an outpatient basis, it may be the best gift you can give to you and your family members during the holidays if it helps you maintain your sobriety.
Living in sobriety does not mean that the holidays are something that you need to worry about or regret. It does not mean that you have to give up having fun, avoid parties or spend time alone as you anxiously wait for the season to end. It’s a wonderful time of year where you can share your joy, start new traditions and embrace your recovery in a triumph and healthy way. Being prepared, having the support and remembering to feed your mind, body, and soul positively will prepare you to face any challenges and roadblocks that pop up and give you the tools and strength you need to support your sobriety any time of the year. If you would like information on residential treatment options available to help you or a loved stay sober during the holidays then please contact the professionals at The River Rehab for a free assessment.