The holidays are just around the corner. Christmas lights are strung on trees and houses, making our surrounding neighborhoods come alive. More and more people are bustling about, finishing up their last-minute shopping lists. Friends and family are making plans for the nights ahead – and many are already shipping and settling in for holiday break. For some, this season is the most wonderful time of year. For others, it is a nice wintery mix of celebration and chaos. Especially for those new to recovery.
If you are newly sober, you may be dreading the holidays ahead – How will you get through the unwanted or awkward social situations? How will you weather the crowds of drunken family members, or decline party invitations from your old hometown friends? How will you channel your holiday stress, or be as merry and bright as everyone else?
Our culture makes it easy to believe that, in order to feel the holiday spirit, you need to fill yourself with spirits – wine, champagne, spiked eggnog, what-have-you. But is that what the holidays are really about – about getting wasted and blacking out? No, the holidays are about celebrating and making memories with the ones we love. And as you may know, that’s hard to do when you get so drunk or high that you don’t remember a thing. It’s hard to do when you sleep in too late and wake up miserable on Christmas morning or New Year’s Day.
As a young adult rehab center, Turnbridge often hears from our clients and alumni about the beauty of sober holidays. We hear that, despite popular belief, sober holidays are truly the best holidays of all. Not only do they have more meaning and purpose, they can also keep your stress levels down and save you a bit of cash. Here are some of the many benefits of staying sober during the holiday season:
1. You create better memories (and remember them). In the past, your holidays were likely filled with getting hammered, because it was completely, socially acceptable. Maybe you stole away into the night to meet up with friends and use, just to make it easier to talk with or bear family back home. Looking back, you may find it sad to think how much time was wasted to getting wasted. Back then, you probably didn’t remember deep conversations had with family or even your new little cousin’s first name. Now that you’re sober, things can be different. You can take advantage of this time with your loved ones, immerse yourself in the experience, and better connect with family and friends. Not to mention, you will remember the memories made.
2. You wake up feeling well-rested and ready-to-go. Sober holidays are great because they’re simply hangover-free. Now that you’re in recovery, you can expect to wake up ready to eat the big brunch mom made, to unwrap gifts, or even go to church or for a morning run.
3. You wake up not regretting a thing. Sober holidays also mean guilt-free mornings. You don’t have to wake up worrying about what you might have said the night before, or embarrassing things you might have done. You’ll remember everything you said and did – so even if you spit out some faux pas, at least you’ll know about it.
4. You will stay safe, and can keep loved ones safe. Being sober means having the ability to come and go as you want, without having to worry about getting in the car while intoxicated and getting arrested for it. By not drinking and using, you’re able to keep yourself and your loved ones safe on the ride home.
5. You can spend more time with the little ones in your family. If you have younger kids in your family, this is a great opportunity to spend some time with them. They aren’t drinking, and neither are you – use this time to ask how they are doing, what they are into, what new toys they got, and give them the extra attention that you hadn’t in the past. Not only will you become the cool adult at the party, you’ll also become a genuine role model for them.
6. You’re better able to keep a level-head during stressful times. As joyful as the holidays are, there is usually a bit of stress that accompanies them: family dynamics, group decision-making, transportation, budgeting, last-minute shopping, etc. When you are drug- and alcohol-free, however, these little things just seem less big. Not to mention, you’re better able to tackle them head on. Sobriety enables you to accept and navigate stressful situations with composure. Instead of getting angry or upset (since alcohol tends to escalate emotions) or talking over others, you can calmly assess and find a solution to any problems that arise.
7. Frankly, you’re saving calories. Alcohol contains a lot of calories. According to the National Institutes of Health, your typical beer has over 150 calories, a glass of red wine is about 125, and a shot of spirits over 100 calories (not including anything you mix with it). By not drinking during the holidays, you can allocate those calories to better use – like stocking up at the dessert table.
8. You’re also saving money. Drugs and booze are expensive. When you cut those both out of your routine, your wallet will surely notice. This extra savings can be particularly beneficial during the holiday season. You can use the cash you saved—$40 at the bar, $12 bucks for a six pack, $30 for a bottle of wine—and put it towards gifts: Special gifts for your loved ones, and maybe even a little something for you (like a well-deserved, post-holiday massage).
With the holidays right around the corner, it’s important to remember that you have control over them. You have the power to transform your holidays of the past and shape them to embrace what is most important to you now: recovery, love, faith, comfort, friends, and family.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, also remember that help is just one call away. Many people mistakenly feel that the holidays are a bad time to enroll a treatment program, but we believe that they are actually one of the best. Substance addiction and relapse tend to escalate during the holiday season, as emotions, drugs, and alcohol are more prevalent and harder to avoid. Addiction treatment, in actuality, may be the greatest gift of all at this time of year. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Turnbridge at 877-581-1793 to learn about our drug treatment programs. You may also read our holiday relapse prevention guide for more information on a sober holiday season.