Let’s be honest: the holidays can be a stressful time. Gathering together all the pieces of a festive celebration requires a lot of work. Yet, for individuals in various stages of recovery, the holidays aren’t just a stressful time—they can be hazardous to recovery.
We’ve compiled some tips for staying sober and getting the support you or a loved one may need during the holiday season.
Plan your support system.
The holidays are an excellent opportunity to reach out to people who can support you. Whether it’s a therapist, sponsor, recovery coach, support group, or fellow peers in recovery. Don’t feel like you need to go through this battle by yourself—many people who know your situation and know what you’re feeling can provide a wonderful sense of comfort and accountability.
Understand the complex emotions of the holidays…and don’t be afraid to say no.
You, more than anyone else, know what has the potential to cause problems during holiday festivities. The key is to prepare yourself for what could trigger your mind. If there’s an event or family member that has stressed you out in the past, it might be better to completely avoid the situation than regret it later. Only go to functions you have to attend and don’t be afraid to decline an invitation if the event would make you uncomfortable.
Focus on others and avoid isolation.
You may feel more content by yourself than surrounded by people during the holidays. However, one of the keys to getting through your recovery is to avoid isolation. Focusing on others is an important step, whether through volunteering with a local charity or spending time with people who are positive influences in your life. Communicating regularly with other friends who are in recovery or a support group can also help you stay connected.
Keep track of what you’re drinking.
Keep a can or glass of soda or juice in your hand the entire party. This way, no one will ask you if you’d like something to drink.
Arrive late, leave early, and always have a backup plan.
For families that are spread out across the country and don’t see each other very often, the holidays are a wonderful time to sit around and chat about the goings-on. Although this is a good time to catch up, it would be better for you to arrive a little late to the gabfest to avoid simply standing around. If you leave early, you will also avoid when things could get crazy. Another good possibility is to bring a sober friend as a guest or date so you have someone close to support you at all times.
Remember that being in recovery doesn’t mean an instantaneously perfect life.
So much of the 21st century is about instant gratification, like instant answers from Google or quick responses through a text message. Recovery is a different story—it’s a long trek up a steep mountain. By recognizing that everything isn’t going to fall into place instantaneously, you’re already halfway there. Long-term recovery is possible, but it is important to take it one day at a time.
Tell people you are in recovery…and don’t be ashamed!
There’s nothing wrong with letting people know why you don’t want a glass of wine with dinner or to join in on a champagne toast. Never feel shame in saying no, or letting people know you are in recovery. People who truly support you will understand and help you get through each experience. Communicate your feelings with other sober friends and support groups, because odds are everyone is feeling the same way as you.
The final tip is to remember that you are courageous and powerful, and you can get through this. With the proper plan in place, and a group of supportive friends, family, and professionals by your side, you can maintain your recovery through the holiday season and begin the new year with a great outlook.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, substance abuse, or a mental health disorder, our team of professionals is here to help. Call us for a confidential conversation at 877.538.5425, and begin the process of healing and recovery today.
Lillian SchaefferJanuary 20, 2016 3:43 pm
Thanks for sharing this great post about how to handle the holiday season while recovering from an alcohol addiction. I’ve been sober for a while, but the holidays were big drinking times for me in the past, so I want to be prepared. In my research about ways to cope with this, I found some more good information at this site as well.