Staying sober while celebrating the holidays can be a real challenge. Despite all of the warm, cozy feelings that the holidays incite, this time can also create a tremendous amount of stress. Not only is there pressure to see and be seen by countless friends and family members, but there’s also the prospect of being confronted with high-risk social environments and high-risk social activities.
The good news is that staying sober throughout the holiday season isn’t impossible. With the right amount of caution and planning, you can maintain your recovery as a top priority and still have a good time. Here are some great tips for staying sober during the holidays.
1. Develop a Plan
Make a list of the triggers that you’re most likely to encounter. Then, have strategies for dealing with each one. Set firm boundaries for what you will and will not do, and find a clear and direct way to turn unwanted offers down. You can also jot down several strategies for avoidance. For instance, you can plan on keeping your hands filled with drinks like soda, juice, or sparkling water, so that you aren’t constantly offered alcoholic beverages.
You might bring your sober sponsor along when meeting with friends, or join and exit parties before groups head out to visit local pubs. Knowing how you’ll deal with difficult situations in advance won’t just make things easier; it will also limit your holiday stress.
2. Make Time for Self-Care
This isn’t the time to let your self-care routines fall by the wayside. Remember the acronym H.A.L.T. and never let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. More importantly, combat the additional stress of the holiday season by indulging in special, relaxing activities that you aren’t often able to enjoy. Visit a spa for a deep tissue massage, purchase an aromatherapy kit, or sign up for a guided meditation class. Make sleep and good nutrition top priorities, and stay on top of your exercise routine. If you enter the holiday season feeling good about yourself and especially on-target, you’ll be far less likely to succumb to unexpected challenges.
3. Rely on Your Support Network
Stay diligent about attending regular sober meetings. Keep in touch with people in recovery or sober sponsor, and join a local support group. If you’ll be traveling out of town for the holidays, make plans to expand your support network in advance. You can look for sober meetings in the area you’ll be visiting, or you can learn how to attend your normal sober meetings by phone.
4. Be of Service to Friends and Family
One of the greatest benefits of achieving sobriety and maintaining it is having the focus and clarity of mind that’s necessary for serving others. You can be a help to those around you rather than being the person who needs help. Spend some of your holiday hours visiting with shut-ins, working at a local food bank or soup kitchen, or donating your time in other ways. Prepare meals for your loved ones or help tackle holiday shopping. Volunteering can be incredibly rewarding. More importantly, it takes the focus off of you and allows you to apply your skills and attention to someone else in a purely positive way.
5. Create New Traditions for Recovery
Old holiday traditions can get you into trouble. You have the option of totally redefining your holiday celebrations to suit your new sober lifestyle. Moreover, if this means skipping out on high-stress family gatherings or holiday events that cause you emotional trauma, you have the right to do so. Start spending your holidays in ways that are personally fulfilling and largely trigger- and temptation-free.
6. Avoid Situations That Could Harm
You certainly don’t want to spend your holidays in the company of people who’ll be engaging in heavy drinking or drug use. If you intend to meet up with a group that will be on the move, find out where everyone is going and whether it’s safe for you to tag along. If you can, consider bringing a sober buddy or accountability partner with you. It’s always a good idea to spend this season with family members or sober friends who respect your recovery and are committed to helping you stay on target.
7. Avoid Relapse Triggers
You’ll find that relapse triggers are just about everywhere during the holiday season. Avoidance is definitely a good way to limit your encounters with people, places, and things that trigger an urge to use. However, it’s also important to review your new and healthier coping skills and put them to use. These can include deep breathing, mindfulness, and quiet meditation among other things.
Many relapse triggers during the holidays are emotional triggers. Sadly, these often come in the form of family members who are prone to criticizing or making comments that cause shame or embarrassment. Keep in mind that you aren’t obligated to spend time with anyone this holiday season who serves as a direct risk to your recovery. Your primary obligation is to yourself and to keep your recovery on target.
8. Have an Exit Plan
One easy way to give yourself an exit when situations, crowds, or environments become uncomfortable is by bringing your own vehicle or planning to use a ride share service. This way, you won’t be stuck in a space where you’re surrounded by high-risk activities and where your recovery is constantly being challenged. It’s also okay to let people know that you aren’t comfortable visiting specific locations or spending time with specific groups of people. One of the best exit plans for any recovering addict is simply giving yourself permission to say no.
9. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
The holiday season is hard for everyone. However, it can be especially challenging for those in recovery. Many people ring in the holiday season by drinking to excess, overeating, and engaging in recreational drug use. No matter where you go or who you surround yourself with, you’re virtually guaranteed to encounter temptations, triggers, and other challenges. The only thing you have to do is avoid relapse. You can accomplish this by limiting the expectations you put on yourself and by setting and maintaining firm boundaries.
10. Practice Gratitude
Adopting a mindset of gratitude can make all challenging situations a lot easier. Start your days this holiday season by making a list of things that you’re grateful for. In recovery, this shouldn’t be hard to do. Your mind is clearer, you’re free to make your own decisions, and you have the opportunity to build your life anew. With gratitude, you’ll find it much easier to stay positive even when everything around you seems far more chaotic and stressful than you’re used to.
If you or someone you love is battling addiction this holiday season, we can help. At Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, we offer inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, and partial hospitalization programs year-round. Get in touch with us today to find out more about our services or to talk with an admissions counselor.