The holiday season can be an extremely challenging time for recovering addicts. Endless holiday parties, shopping, expectations from friends and family, and past memories of indulging in drugs and alcohol during this time, are all stressors that can make it seem as though the world is testing your hard earned sobriety. While stressful for most, the time surrounding Christmas and New Year’s doesn’t have to be at odds with your commitment to staying sober, but it is a time to be extra vigilant about your recovery.
Staying Sober During the Holidays
Recognizing that the risk for relapse is higher during this time, and making a plan for yourself is one of the best ways you can keep on track as you prepare to celebrate the holidays while staying sober. These ten tips for how to stay sober throughout the holiday season will help make staying sober manageable and rewarding.
1. Be prepared.
Having a few lines ready for when you may have to turn down a drink, or turn down a holiday party all together, can make these instances of temptation less stressful. Unless you feel comfortable doing so, you do not have to disclose that you’re in recovery to everyone you encounter. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you don’t want to have that drink. A simple “No thank you, but I’ll take a Diet Coke,” is sufficient. Being prepared and planning ahead for what you’ll say will make staying sober over the holidays much less stressful.
2. Remind yourself why staying sober is important to you.
Think about why you decided to enter recovery, write it down, and carry it with you. For example, ‘I am in recovery because it allows me to lead a happier and healthier life.’ When the temptation to partake in drugs or alcohol arises, you can read this over to yourself, reminding you why you must say now.
Similarly, write a letter to yourself from your future (still sober) self: ‘How I made it through the holiday season sober.‘ List the things you will do to make this time enjoyable, healthy, and sober and why it’s important to you. Read it when you’re feeling especially vulnerable and need a reminder.
3. Choose holiday parties wisely.
The holidays are a time spent with friends and family, so avoiding every party you receive an invitation too is not realistic. Occasionally, there will be gatherings that are important to you – that you wish to attend – where alcohol will be flowing freely. If you choose to attend a party where alcohol or drugs are present, ask yourself honestly: ‘Is this an event that is truly meant for sharing quality time together? Would all the attendees still be there even if alcohol was not being served?‘ If the answer is no, then it may be best to steer clear. Staying sober is the most important thing for you; a few hours at a party are not worth risking
4. Plan an escape route.
If you are attending an event where people will be drinking make sure you can leave if you begin to feel strong urges or simple feel uncomfortable around the other guests. When possible, go with a sober friend so you can keep each other accountable.
5. Stay away from slippery places.
There is no reason you should stop by an old hangout to say hello, even over the holidays.
6. Be careful of overeating.
Of course the holidays are full of wonderful feasts and treats that should be enjoyed, but be careful of eating so much you feel bad about it. The feeling of guilt can give your addicted brain more reason to return to using. If you are in recovery from food addiction make sure you plan ahead and reach out to those who support you.
7. Spend time with people who support your recovery.
Now is a more important time than ever to reach out to friends and family who support your recovery. If you attend meetings—keep going! Those who know about your recovery will not only be happy to support you in your recovery, but they know what you’re going through, which can be very beneficial. Attend sober events in your community and keep a list of at least 5 people you can call if you feel lonely, overwhelmed, or just need someone to talk to about staying sober.
8. Start new traditions.
Be creative! Host your own sober party, buy a new board game, make holiday crafts, go ice skating, volunteer; the opportunities for sober holiday fun are endless.
Don’t let your normal recovery routine lax over the holidays. Regular exercise, yoga, meditation, and any other activities you use for staying sober on a day to day basis now become even more important. Even if exercise hasn’t been a solid part of your recovery thus far, now is a great time to start! Go for a brisk walk and take in the holiday décor in your neighbourhood, get out your skates, or even go for a swim at the local pool.