Tis the season for holiday celebrations and family gatherings; the season of gift-giving and champagne-toasting; the season in which many of us come together to ‘eat, drink, and be merry.’ Yet as fun and joyous as they can be, the holidays often commence a challenging time for those in or new to recovery.
Amidst all the commotion of the holiday season, it can be easy for those in recovery to feel alone in their journeys. If you too feel like you are the only one not drinking at a party or bringing in a boozy new year, the only one trying to figure out how to stay sober during the holidays, we want you to know that you are not alone. Today, about one in every 12 American adults is battling a substance addiction. Whether you can see it or not, there are millions of people in recovery facing very similar challenges: to pass up that glass of wine, to stay sane amidst the stresses of the holiday season, and to keep their commitment to sobriety as old friends and family members come home for winter break. Like them, you too can keep sober during the holidays with the right steps taken.
You’ll just need a bit of preparation and a lot of dedication to get through until January. Here are seven tips for staying sober during the holidays.
1. Recognize your relapse triggers.
This year, you may be brought back to places and parties where you used to have fun and get high. You may run into old friends who are back in town, old friends from your using days, who will remind you of substance use. You may find yourself grieving relationships and ties that were broken during the holiday season.
As a part of your recovery plan, it is important to know how to properly cope with the relapse triggers that the holidays so often bring. Manage them as they arise so that you do not find yourself face-to-face with relapse. If you encounter a familiar, dangerous situation, walk away. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or lonely in your sobriety, talk to someone you trust. If you feel physically or mentally exhausted, get some rest to try and quiet any uneasiness. Properly taking care of yourself – physically, mentally, and emotionally – can help you avoid a relapse.
2. Start every day with a plan.
To avoid holiday temptations, start each waking day with a plan to keep sober. This means thinking ahead about all the possible triggers and situations that may come your way during the holiday season. Always be prepared. If you are in a place where your drug cravings start to unleash, have a plan to settle them. Leave the situation or call a sober friend. If you are uncomfortable at a party, be sure that you always have your own way home. Decide in advance what you are going to say if someone offers you a drink. Rehearse three or four responses. A polite, clear “No, thank you” most often does the trick, but you may encounter pushy and prodding people as well. Have a plan for dealing with them, whether it be saying, “I don’t drink for health reasons” or just simply walking away.
3. Keep a (non-alcoholic) drink in your hand.
If it’s one of your first sober holiday parties, you may be a bit anxious about having to deny drinks or talk about your recovery. To avoid excessive explanations or denials, simply carry a drink of choice in your hand – egg nog, water, coffee, whichever you prefer. By doing so, you will most often avoid the question altogether. And if someone does offer you a glass of wine, you can easily turn it down by saying, “No, thank you, I’m all set.”
4. Don’t be afraid to talk about your recovery.
Sobriety and recovery are losing the stigma they once carried. Most people know someone who has battled addiction. Of course, it is your choice whether you want to talk about your journey, just know that you do not have to be afraid to do so. By being open about it, you will likely gain more support and encouragement than you’d ever imagined from family and friends. You may even inspire others to take the leap in their own efforts to get sober. If you just want to tell a selected, trusted number of people about your sobriety, that can also be beneficial. By doing so, you will gain some accountability as well as a small support system as you stay sober during the holidays.
5. Keep busy.
Don’t let yourself spend too much time sitting around and chatting with your friends and family members. Because most often, this sitting around can involve or lead to drinking. This year, plan some more engaging activities. Get outside for some ice skating or sledding with the family. Plan Yankee swaps or other holiday games to engage both the young and the old. Help out with decorating, cooking, or driving to and from events in efforts to stay sober.
6. Learn how to channel holiday stress.
While most often a merry time, many people still experience stress during the holidays. Whether it be last-minute gift giving or stressful relationships within the family, you may know these anxieties as well. In the past, you may have channeled these stresses through drinking and drug use. You may have used substances as an escape. In recovery, you must find new ways to cope with your stresses – such as working out at the gym, going for a walk, reading a book, or meeting a sober friend for coffee.
7. Stick to your meeting schedule or call in your sober network when you need support.
Despite being the holidays, 12-step meetings do not take days off. Whether you are home for the holidays or traveling, find a meeting place or recovery center near you. Meet with others who are staying sober during the holidays, people who are like you and understand your journey, to help keep you on the right path.
For more tips on staying sober during the holidays, or to get help for a loved one battling a substance use disorder, please do not hesitate to reach out. Call Turnbridge young adult drug rehab center at 877-581-1793 today to learn about our sober living program for young men and women.