5 Tips For Staying Sober During the Holidays

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Holidays are a time for celebration and joy. The same should be true for individuals who are moving through life post-treatment after overcoming an addiction. However, the season can sometimes present difficulties that make staying sober during the holidays a challenge. Avenues Recovery has compiled some tips to help recovering addicts to not only get through the holidays while staying sober, but to enjoy it too! Read on for advice from experienced addiction treatment professionals.

How to Approach Staying Sober During the Holidays

If a loved one is recovering from addiction, it’s important to realize that just because they are post-treatment doesn’t mean that they won’t need the same support as before. In fact, they might need even more support to continue their recovery during the holidays.

If you yourself are recovering, remember that you did the work and you came out strong. Believe in your ability to maintain your sobriety and view the holidays as a time to be with people who love you and support you. This mindset will help you to approach the holidays with confidence. Below are some more practical tips for how to stay sober during the holidays:

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1. Create a Holiday Relapse Prevention Plan

It’s important to begin your holiday well-prepared for any eventualities and how you will handle them. Here are a few ways you can prepare to get through the holidays clean and sober:

  • Consider inviting a supportive friend to come along. There is no shame in bringing a close friend or even an advocate who can help you if cravings occur or if things get stressful.
  • Walk through potential party scenarios in your mind and work out how you would handle them. Prepare for triggers and practice politely refusing alcohol or drugs if offered.
  • If you have a history of alcohol abuse, try bringing your own drinks along such as sparkling cider or any other non-alcoholic beverage that will make you feel comfortable. This will help you not to feel left out, but also control risk of temptations.
  • Arrange your own transportation to events so that you can show up late or leave early if you’re worried about stressful situations or being near certain individuals. If you’ve had enough it’s completely appropriate to say good night and head home. 
  • Make a plan for which parties or gatherings you will attend. If you know certain groups will be more tempting, try avoiding them. This doesn’t mean you have to skip every gathering you’re invited to. You shouldn’t isolate yourself, but be smart about who you choose to see and interact with. If you haven't yet made some sober friends, it's time to make some!
  • Have an escape plan handy in case things get too overwhelming.
  • Make plans to meet up or keep in touch with your sponsor by phone. It’s also a good idea to review your holiday relapse prevention plan with your sponsor before the holidays.

2. Prepare for Holiday Triggers

  • Don’t put yourself in situations that will cause you undue anxiety. If you know that a certain party is all about drinks, or will cause you stress and tempt you to use, feel free to skip it. There’s no need to pack your holiday schedule with potential relapse triggers. Addiction is very powerful, so it’s best to just steer clear and not convince yourself that you’ll manage.
  • If you know someone that you don’t want to be around will be at a celebration, opt out. Your sobriety always comes first. Be choosy of the people you surround yourself with. It’s easy to slip back into old habits, especially when you’re around certain people who have been enablers in the past..

If food is a concern, eat before you go or bring your own meal with you. Plan it out, so you know that your meal won’t trigger anything. Those who support you will be understanding, and everyone else has no business in the matter.

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3. Maintain Your Recovery Support

  • Try not to slack on attending meetings because of the erratic holiday schedule. Support groups like the Avenues alumni program are one of the places where you will consistently find support throughout the holidays. Don’t let the festivities be an excuse for why you aren’t attending. 
  • Keep up communication with your sponsor and support community. Keeping in touch with these people when you're in a challenging environment or situation will help you to get through it safely.
  • Find out where the nearest meetings are to your holiday location. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have many gatherings that serve as meaningful alternatives to alcohol-loaded holiday parties, and choosing these over events with high relapse potential is a smart choice.

4. Focus on Giving

Reaching out and keeping busy by serving others will help you to avoid the negative thoughts that can lead to relapse. Practicing human care and empathy will also make you feel good about yourself, and occupy your head and your time. There are so many opportunities to help out - whether it’s a homeless shelter, charity campaign, or visiting the sick or elderly to spread some holiday cheer, giving to others is always a good choice that will distract you from holiday triggers and substance abuse. Plus, you’ll feel great afterwards about the way you spent your time.

5. Prioritize Self Care

Take the time to look after yourself, even during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. You need to feel your best physically and emotionally in order to enjoy your break and succeed at staying sober during the holidays. Do whatever will relax you - be it exercise, acupuncture or the spa. Remember the H.A.L.T. relapse triggers (hungry, angry, lonely and tired) and make sure to steer clear of those too. Mindfulness and meditation can also be helpful to keep you focused on your goals and handle triggers effectively, so consider adding a 10 minute slot to your daily routine.

How to Stay Sober During the Holidays

One thing many people in recovery fall victim to is the “treat yourself” mentality during the holidays (not to be confused with prioritizing self care as above). Thoughts like “Oh I’ve been so good, I can afford a break,” or “It’s just one drink,” are easy ways to get yourself off track. Some people may think that holidays and recovery are mutually exclusive. Temptation is hard, and unfortunately, it is everywhere. However, you can still have a wonderful and sober holiday this season. Just remember to surround yourself with people who are there to support you, and above all, planning ahead is the key.

If you have any questions or would like help starting your path to sobriety, please contact us online or call us at Avenues Recovery on 603-546-7881 888-500-9279.

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