Staying Sober During the Holidays

Once the holiday time rolls around, it’s more susceptible for individuals struggling with substance abuse to struggle with staying sober during the holidays. It’s a challenge during this time of year to stay in abstinence and recovery during the holidays. For these reasons, holidays and recovery don’t usually co-occur and the holidays can be stressful and exhausting. 

When a person is having to experience this difficult task, mental health challenges are also triggered. Because the United States is struggling with a global pandemic,  it becomes even more difficult for those dealing with active and recovering addiction. This can lead to relapse.

According to Jessica Sullivan, Clinical Psychologist and Director of Centerstone’s Certified Community, Behavioral Health Clinic stated, “There is a lot of evidence that suggests that individuals during early abstinence who are confronted with stress are more likely to relapse.”

During the holiday time, there is a great amount of emotional stress that can also be felt such as: 

  • Financial concerns
  • Family conflict 
  • Loneliness
  • Trauma

If an individual isn’t feeling well equipped enough to manage his or her stressors, it’s tempting to resort back to old poor coping strategies. It is pivotal to note that you don’t have to feel the need to resort back to substance use and drug use. The possibility lies in achieving staying sober during the holidays through being prepared. Recovery during the holidays can be accomplished. 

Tips on Staying Sober During the Holidays

Limit Triggers

It’s essential to be able to recognize your triggers and limit them whether that be certain people or the environment. There is also the importance to be able to take care of your basic needs such as sleep, food, and mood to properly manage your triggers. Once you can identify your addiction triggers, begin to take notice of your warning signs when you start seeking out unhealthy situations and thinking patterns. 

Some Traps and Triggers are Optional

If you are aware that certain people, places, or events will trigger your addiction, do your absolute best to avoid them. It is not realistic to think that you’ll be able to soldier through every temptation. 

Step 1 of the 12 steps teaches that you don’t have the power on your own. So why put yourself through the act of “powering through” a challenge that can relapse triggers? Safeguarding your recovery and staying sober must always come first. 

Set Boundaries

If you are an individual who anticipates boundaries being tested during holidays and recovery, it might be beneficial to consider preparing appropriate responses. Practice how you will decline any alcoholic substances or beverages that might be offered to you. It might also be helpful to rehearse how you will respond to any recovery questions that you don’t feel ready to answer. 

Stay Helpful

Trying to stay sober during the holidays is challenging, but not impossible. Look for every opportunity to be of service to someone or an organization. There are numerous different ways to pay it forward and be of service and give back.

  • Reach out to a newcomer at a meeting
  • Spend time with a neighbor or elderly loved one
  • Serve a meal at a homeless shelter 

Immerse in each opportunity to lead you further away from self-pity, fear, and resentment. When you can take the opportunity and connect with other individuals, you begin to see, honor, and value experiences by exercising empathy.  

Be Mindful on What You’re Drinking and Thinking

At social events and family gatherings, it might be wise to stay around your favorite non-alcoholic beverage. By doing this, people won’t feel as inclined to offer you a drink or get the opportunity to pester you about your sobriety. Be mindful of asking someone to grab you a drink because they might forget about your illness or misunderstand what you’re saying. 

If you do accidentally take a sip of an alcoholic beverage, do not panic. A sip of a drink on accident doesn’t constitute a relapse. If the thoughts start to creep in such as esteemed abilities to handle your liquor, immediately shut them down. It’s important to remember that your abstinence did not teach you how to control your drinking because abstinence does not rewire your brain to become unaddicted. 

Be Intentional on Invitations You’ll Accept

During recovery during the holidays, individuals celebrate in various ways. It is okay and acceptable for you to say, “No, thank you” to customs, practices, and invitations that are detrimental to you. One of the most important things is your peace of mind. 

You are in charge of maintaining your peace of mind by saying yes to celebrating with people and in ways that are supportive of your sobriety. It’s possible to have holidays and recovery together if you work towards it. For example, a “Friendsgiving” is completely acceptable to replace a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner. 

Create a Plan

You must be prepared to be around friends, colleagues, or family that might encourage you to misuse drugs or drink. Begin each day with a relapse prevention plan. By utilizing this tip, you will be doing the following things:

  • Bringing your safe drinks and foods that you can enjoy happily
  • Creating an exit plan in case you find yourself in an unhealthy situation 
  • Bringing an accountable person to holiday events 

By hatching this holiday escape plan, you will ultimately excel in having sobriety protected. It’s no surprise that family gatherings and holiday-themed parties are often full of alcohol and the act of individuals offering you a drink. 

The individuals you surround yourself with are crucial and might be left dumbfounded when you deny staying sober instead. Thus, you must plan ahead for triggering environments and uncomfortable situations. 

What Might the Holiday Plan Include?

  • Finding your form of transportation, or hitching a ride with a person in your support system
  • Making plans to speak with your sponsor on the phone or meet up with him or her
  • Attending a 12-Step meeting, or inviting a sober friend to come with you
  • Limiting your time around difficult people and stressful situations
  • Preparing to politely refuse alcohol or other drugs
  • Having an escape plan in case things go south 

Engaging in Healthy Self-Care

Celebrate the fullness of your sober life and the holiday season by taking time for yourself. Gentle exercise, restorative sleep, and proper nutrition can work wonders for your well-being. The better an individual feels physically, the stronger he or she will feel emotionally. 

You can nourish your spirit through connection with those you love and through personal reflection. It will be beneficial to find quiet time for meditation and relaxation. Even if it’s for a couple of minutes, no matter how busy you are. 

It’s more likely that sitting around family and friends can increase the likelihood that you will misuse substances. For that reason, pick up a healthy and new activity this holiday season to jumpstart staying sober during the holidays. To avoid reverting to unhealthy habits, be intentional to make self-care a priority. 

Seek a Support System

If you happen to be a part of a support system, you can utilize that as an opportunity to enhance staying sober during the holidays. Recovery during the holidays begins with you. Carve out the time to engage in more addiction recovery meetings during the holiday times. It’s imperative to regularly build and engage in healthy relationships.

Marathon Meetings

If you are a 12-Step member, find out where 12-Step clubhouses are in your location that might be providing get-togethers or marathon meetings during recovery during the holidays. 

Try Something New

You might be accustomed to engaging in addictive behaviors when you spend your holidays. As a result of comfortability, there might be novel events that can, in turn, become annual traditions. Avoiding addiction triggers certainly acts as a great starting point. There can perhaps be more context added to create a more meaningful and rich life that could weaken the desire to use substances.

For example, frame holidays as a way to engage in sober activities with like-minded individuals and experience novel situations such as the following:

  • Watching sporting events and holiday movies
  • Experiencing nature and beach trips
  • Cooking meals together

Rewrite the Holiday Story in Your Head

If you are known for exerting intense levels of energy during the holiday time, it might be time to rewrite the holiday story in your head instead. It would be great if you’re able to speak to your sponsor or speak with a sober friend regarding the expectations and emotions you have about the holidays. Especially if you are feeling resentful replaying old childhood memories and experiences in your head. 

You need to challenge and investigate the internal monologue within you and be able to evaluate what you are lacking. After processing these emotions, you’ll be better equipped to break down any sensitive walls and forgive others. By engaging in this approach, you’ll be able to enter into this new holiday season with a stronger sense of gratitude. 

When feelings such as resentment are left unintended, individuals in addiction recovery will often experience a buildup of more resentment and stress that eventually leads to relapse. The disease of addiction becomes more powerful during the holiday season. It’s important to remember that recovery is a one-step at a time endeavor, no matter the season it is in. 

All of the above-mentioned sober activities can present to be extremely beneficial during this difficult time. If your family is not conducive to recovery during the holidays and does not help you in staying sober during the holidays, you can pick your “spiritual family member” to be whoever you decide. You don’t have to feel guilty for doing this either. It’s for your health.

Connect with Sober Contacts

During these challenging times amidst holidays and recovery, it is critical to maintain connections with other individuals in sobriety. It might present to be beneficial to remember that reaching out for help is an act of vulnerability. This act of vulnerability not only benefits you directly but can also be viewed as an act of service to the individuals you are reaching out to. So don’t be afraid to reach out. 

Practice Mindfulness or Other Forms of Mediation

Several studies have shown and indicated that mindfulness practices can act as a protective factor against problematic substance use and drug cravings. Mindfulness can aid a person in remaining in the present moment. Mindfulness can also allow individuals to calm their minds from thinking about stressors associated with substance use and holidays and recovery. 

Recovery Awaits at Harmony Place

If you need treatment for drug and alcohol abuse addiction, consider going to rehab over the holiday season. For many of the reasons mentioned above, there is more of a need for substance abuse treatment over the holidays. Think of utilizing these helpful tips during the holiday season or attending addiction treatment as a gift to yourself. Contact us today.