Staying sober for the holidays
Here are some tips for protecting your sobriety, preventing relapse and how to handle delicate situations.
1. Stick to a Sober Strategy Plan
Develop a plan to that will ensure you remain sober during the festivities and do this well in advance holiday events. Do whatever that means to prevent a trigger relapse to substance abuse. This may mean going to a Twelve Step meeting before or after the event, attending the festivities with your sponsor or a sober friend, or making sure you can leave the gathering at any time and are not dependent on someone else for transportation. It also may mean skipping a New Year’s Party if you’re a recovering alcoholic because of the midnight toast.
Staying sober during the holidays could also include setting aside time before and after each event to talk with your sponsor.
Staying sober during the holidays in some cases might mean that you NOT go visit someone or avoiding an event altogether to prevent a relapse trigger from getting the best of you. Have the courage to just say “no” to these people and those situations.
Half the battle of relapse prevention is having an awareness of the people, places or things that could trigger trouble and planning strategies for staying sober given those inevitable situations.
2. Adjust Your Attitude
Talk with your sponsor, or a friend who understands addiction recovery, or even a treatment professional about your feelings and your concerns that are linked to holidays before you start celebrating. Discussing why you may have anxiety, even as far back as your childhood, will help you talk through the problem. It will also help you to identify and avoid relapse triggers.
It sometimes helps to remember that your loved ones, coworkers and friends are probably feeling tired and stressed during the holidays, too. This realization alone will help you adjust your attitude, lower your expectations and be forgiving of yourself and others. Instead of showing up at a holiday event feeling on edge or defensive, orient your thinking to be open, accepting and positive: remind yourself that there are some people or situations you didn’t like when you were sober before, and there’s little reason you’ll like them now. The same goes for events that you dreaded before you developed your addiction. It’s better to say “no” to a person or an event than to risk disaster.
Staying sober during the holidays also means that you need to be aware that some people in addiction recovery are vulnerable to substance abuse relapse after the holidays. The buildup of stress and resentment that might come with the holidays can lead to rationalizations, denial and relapse. In other words, we can convince ourselves that, considering what we’ve been through, we are entitled to drink or use. Sometimes, as alcoholics and addicts, we manage things better when we’re in the midst of a crisis than afterwards. Remember, the disease of addiction is as powerful the day after a holiday as it is the day of and the day before. As we learn during addiction rehab and in the meeting rooms, recovery is a one-day-at-a-time endeavor, no matter the season.
3. Be of Service
One way of staying sober during the holidays is to skip family celebrations altogether and instead, give back to the community, The holidays offer a great chance for spiritual growth by sharing your gratitude and joy with others. Take joy in your progress by working with people are struggling in some way or another. It takes a little courage, but it gives your situation tremendous perspective.
Work with local organizations to be of service to others: Serve a meal at a homeless shelter, reach out with hospitality to a newcomer at a meeting, spend time with a neighbor who is confined. There are a million different ways to give back, pay it forward and to help others who are suffering or are just in need of a little help. Staying sober during the holidays is a lot easier when you’re focused on helping someone else.
4. Watch What You’re Drinking
Staying sober during the holidays also requires your full attention at social gatherings.
One tip we love is to always have a beverage in hand – that way, people aren’t constantly offering you a drink.
When you order a beverage, watch carefully how it is being made. If you ask someone to get a beverage for you, he or she may not know your situation or might forget your request and bring you an alcoholic drink.
This is where it gets tricky: if you accidentally pick up the wrong drink and swallow some alcohol, this doesn’t mean you will automatically relapse. What you need to do is prevent at all costs the thought tha might creep into you mind that suggests, “Hmm, I guess I can handle alcohol in social situations after all. Perhaps my period of abstinence taught me how to control my drinking.”
You simply don’t want to go down that path. The best thing you can do in that situation is to tell someone who understands recovery from drug or alcohol addiction about your experience as soon as possible. A mistake is not a relapse—but it can lead to one if you keep it a secret.
6. Avoid Known Relapse Triggers
If you know Aunt Kimmie is going to corner you and drill you about rehab, avoid her. If Uncle Mike is going to insist on making you a cocktail stay away from him. If you’ve been invited to a New Year’s party that you know is really all about drinking or other drug use, just don’t go. No good can come from it.
It is unrealistic in all of these scenarios to say, “I can soldier through.” That’s what Step One of the Twelve Steps teaches us, right? That we don’t have the power. So, why put yourself in the position of having to “power through” an obstacle course of relapse triggers? Staying sober during the holidays and safeguarding your recovery must always come first.
If you read any of the books on recovery, there are many tips to help you get you through recovery. These practices can come in very handy around the holidays, too.
6. Practice Self-care
Celebrate the holiday season and the fullness of your sober life by taking time for yourself. Proper nutrition, gentle exercise and restorative sleep can do wonders for your well-being. The better you feel physically, the stronger you will be emotionally. Nourish your spirit, too, through personal reflection and connection with those you love. Find some quiet time each day for relaxation and meditation—if only for a few minutes, no matter how busy you are. Let your spirit be your guide.
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