However, for people in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse, the holidays can be a very trying time. It can be difficult to stay sober in times of celebration. More often than not, alcohol is present at holiday parties and it can be hard to refrain from caving in to urges when everyone around you seems to be having a great time under the influence.
The holidays are a time of celebration – time with family and friends, time for being thankful, time for giving and receiving gifts and good cheer. There are tons of things to look forward to leading up to the holidays. You can enjoy things like cooler weather, pretty lights, great food, festive movies, and gifts.
Stress and Sobriety
The holidays can be a time of great stress for a lot of people. Busy schedules, making over-commitments, and travel plans can all cause emotional turmoil. Financial stress is at an annual high during the holidays.
If you’re traveling away from your support system for the holidays, it can be especially easy to feel isolated from those who understand you. A drastic shift in routine can also leave you susceptible to a relapse.
Spending time around family and friends who may enable you to engage in alcohol or drug abuse, or even just being in an environment that brings up unpleasant memories from when you were a child or when you were in the pits of your addiction, can make a relapse very tempting.
That being said, it’s important to stay strong during the holiday season. There are many ways to prepare yourself for the stress of the holidays to prevent a relapse and give yourself the greatest gift of all: your sobriety!
Have a Strategy in Place
The most important part of staying sober during the holidays is being prepared.
Make a list of every holiday party and function you are attending. Develop a plan for each function before you attend. Be sure to pick a plan that will be effective and realistic for you. Here are a few ideas to protect your sobriety at holiday parties:
- Attending a Twelve Step meeting before or after each function
- Ask a sober friend who is aware of your recovery to attend the event with you to help hold you accountable for remaining sober
- Make sure you have your own method of transportation so you will be able to easily leave if you are feeling triggered to drink or use drugs
- Call a friend before and after you leave the event to check in about your mental state
In short, it’s important to remember that you are empowered to stay sober even in times of stress. If you are at a party and you begin to feel the urges to use alcohol or drugs, it is crucial to excuse yourself in the name of your recovery.
However, if you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to leave a triggering scenario, you can pick one of the options above – or use one of your own strategies – to remain sober.
Check in with Your Mood and Attitude
Remember that most people, regardless of whether or not they struggle with addiction, are stressed during the holidays. You are not alone in feeling a lot of emotional turmoil during this time.
Exhaustion and stress is a pretty commonplace feeling throughout the winter months. In some way or another, most of your family, friends, and coworkers are likely in the same boat.
Hopefully, this realization will help you feel less alone. There is no need to hold yourself to a high standard throughout the holidays. Your main focus should be remaining sober and taking good care of yourself.
If you find that your emotions are too much to handle, don’t hesitate to reach out to your support system. Your sponsor, a sober friend who understands the stress of recovery, or a professional counselor who can help you work through your emotions while maintaining a state free of bias and judgment.
Remember, at the end of the day, recovery is an active choice that only you can make. When you are in a situation where you feel tempted to use drugs or alcohol, it’s important to remain accountable and ask yourself what is right for you:
- Should you leave?
- Should you call a friend?
- What is the best plan for how to remain sober when it would be easier to cave in?
Some people who are recovering from addiction find it hard to remain sober in the months following the holidays, as well. The buildup of stress during the holidays and resentment from being around people and locations from your addiction can make it tempting to abuse drugs and alcohol.
High stress scenarios can lead to rationalizations – i.e; I’ve had a rough week, what’s the harm in having a couple of drinks to take the edge off?
It’s important to remember that, when you’re in recovery from addiction, having one drink will result in a downward spiral. Caving in to these urges is never the right option, and there are plenty of courses of action you can take to prevent this from happening.
Conduct Acts of Service in Your Community
Remember that the holidays can be a very stressful time for those who do not have families, homes, or a sense of community.
If you are someone who is in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse, you are already a very brave and courageous person. Utilize some of that courage to do something great for others during the holiday season.
There are a lot of different ways that you can be of service during the holidays. Reach out to local homeless shelters or food banks to find out where you can spend some time to volunteer. Or, make an active effort to befriend a newcomer at your sobriety meetings.
Another option is to spend some time with someone you know personally who does not have anywhere to go for the holidays.
Stay Mindful to Avoid Temptation
When you are at a gathering where it’s impossible to avoid the presence of alcohol, there are some strategies you can consider to prevent temptation.
If you know there is one person who will ask you a lot of questions about your recovery, there is no shame in avoiding them. If you know someone who will try offering you an alcoholic drink, be sure to always have a non-alcoholic beverage in hand so they won’t think to offer.
These things may be easier said than done, which is totally understandable. If recovery was easy, every addict would be doing it. This is why, when you feel like you cannot control your emotions in situations of temptation, it’s important to take a step back and assess what you should do in the situation.
If that one partygoer won’t stop asking invasive questions about your recovery, tell them that you’re not comfortable with discussing your recovery at that time and you would appreciate it if they would respect that.
Navigating Recovery During the Holidays
In recovery, it’s crucial to set boundaries with your family and friends. Your recovery is personal to you, and no one is entitled to information that you don’t feel comfortable sharing. Usually, your loved ones will ask questions out of concern, not realizing that reliving aspects of your addiction can be an incredibly triggering thing.
If you know that there will be drugs or alcohol present at a party, do not attend or make a brief appearance.
With addiction, it can sometimes feel impossible to resist temptation to use drugs or to consume alcohol. So, why put yourself in a situation where you know there will be strong temptation?
It’s better to deal with friends or coworkers being frustrated that you didn’t come to a party than to spiral back into a relapse due to a situation that you were able to avoid.
The best gift to give yourself for the holidays is sobriety. Do your best to engage in some self care. Eat well, exercise, and be sure you’re getting a proper amount of sleep.
Holidays are the best time to treat yourself to something that will be beneficial to you in the long run. Spend time with your loved ones, your sober friends, and try to make time for your recovery routine, as well.
While balancing the stress of the holidays, be sure to make time for yourself, as well. Even just a few quiet moments of meditation or self reflection a day can be very beneficial to your mental state. Have a sober strategy in place, check in with your mood often, conduct acts of service, and stay mindful of your surroundings.
Remember that recovery and sobriety are both decisions that you have to make every single day, and you’re accountable for ensuring that you live a happy and healthy life, free of addiction.