Although they’re viewed as a joyful time by most people, the holidays can be difficult for those in recovery. The holidays often mean stress, shopping, expectations from friends and relatives, memories of previous holidays spent indulging in drugs or alcohol, and parties at which others drink copiously.
All of these relapse triggers present a challenge for addicts in recovery, but you can stay sober through the holidays if you plan ahead. Know what obstacles you’re likely to face, and decide in advance how you will overcome them. Make a list of strategies that have worked for you in the past, and plan to use them if the need arises.
Here are a few additional tips to help you stay sober while still enjoying the holiday season.
Remember Why You’re Sober
The holiday season is about gratitude, so try making a “gratitude list” of all the reasons you’re grateful for your sobriety. Every day, think about how wonderful it feels to be sober, and all the ways your newfound sobriety has benefited you and your loved ones.
Prioritize Your Sobriety
To keep your sobriety intact, you’ll have to make it your #1 priority. It’s okay to avoid people, places, or parties that you feel will threaten your recovery.
Avoid stopping by old hangouts or visiting the people you used to drink or use with, even in the spirit of the holidays.
Pick and choose which gatherings or parties you attend. Is this an opportunity for people to spend quality time, or will the focus be on drinking alcohol or using drugs? If your answer is the latter, it’s best to decline the invitation.
Your health, happiness, relationships, and success are dependent on your sobriety, so it’s not selfish to protect it.
Have a Plan for Turning Down Drinks
If you do attend a few holiday parties or gatherings, being offered a drink is just about inevitable. You can try avoiding offers by keeping a non-alcoholic drink in your hand at all times.
But in case someone does offer, it’s a good idea to know what you’re going to say. You don’t have to share the details of your sobriety. You can simply say something like, “No thanks, but I’ll take a Coke if you have it.”
You should also have an escape route in mind. What will you do if the party becomes too much to handle? Be prepared to step outside to call your sponsor, an addiction counselor, or someone from your previous rehabilitation facility.
Alternatively, drive alone to the party or with supportive friends so you’re free to leave if needed.
Bring a Sober Friend
It may help to bring a sober friend to the party to keep you accountable. Plus, you’ll feel more at ease if you aren’t the only one turning down drinks.
Maintain Your Routine
Structure is important for recovering addicts, so do your best to maintain your routine and sense of normalcy. Get plenty of sleep, try not to overeat, exercise your usual amount, and spend time relaxing or meditating.
If you’re traveling for the holidays, search ahead of time and find a meeting you can attend wherever you’ll be. You can also bring recovery literature on your travels. Download motivational ebooks or a recovery app on your cell phone.
Plan Holiday Activities
During the holidays, many families spend time sitting around and catching up, often with drinks in hand. Avoid downtime that may be filled with alcohol by planning activities in advance.
You can attend movies, holiday concerts, or sporting events. You can plan to take your family sledding or skating, bake holiday cookies, or even play board games. Keeping yourself and your family entertained will minimize temptation and take your mind off of drinking or drugs.
Stay busy with positive activities by volunteering this holiday season. Help with a toy, clothing, or food drive, or volunteer at a local soup kitchen.
Bringing holiday cheer to others can brighten your spirits and give you a sense of purpose.
It’s possible to make it to January with your sobriety intact, but you’ll need to plan ahead and make positive choices. Prioritize your sobriety and avoid triggers, maintain your routine, and fill your holidays with positive family activities or volunteering.
Take it one day at a time, and you can celebrate the holidays while also protecting your recovery.