While the holiday season is a joyful time for many individuals, it can also be stressful. For people struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, that stress can lead to relapse if left unchecked. The holiday becomes an obstacle course with triggers at every turn.
How Do I Stay Sober During the Holidays?
If you’re in recovery, there are steps you can take to ensure your holiday season is enjoyable and rewarding —without relapsing. Follow these tips for staying sober during the holidays:
1. Define Your Holiday
What is most important to you and your family? What are the activities and events that make your holiday feel like a holiday?
For many families, what we think is important to others isn’t. Running from one event to the next can be less memorable and cheerful than spending a quiet evening home with your family watching holiday movies and enjoying freshly baked cookies.
Before you can start your holiday season, you have to identify what makes the holiday season special to you.
2. Plan Your Holiday Season Carefully
Once you know the most important holiday events for you and your family, you can then add them to your calendar. Reach out to your extended family to find out when you should plan a get-together. Make sure everyone in your family can access the calendar, so there will be no confusion and stress.
3. Add Free Days Into Your Calendar
While getting your holiday events on your calendar is important, adding in “free” days may be even more important. The holiday calendar can quickly fill, which may leave you feeling rushed and overwhelmed.
Put “free” days on the calendar and make them non-negotiable. If another event comes up, simply say you already have plans that day. Use these days to shop, wrap your gifts, cook or decompress.
4. Plan to Attend Meetings
Plan to attend meetings just as you plan any other holiday events. By keeping a check on your sobriety, you’ll be in a stronger place to deal with any holiday stress you experience.
Traveling this season? When making your travel plans, research where the closest meetings will be. Give your loved ones, if needed, a heads up that you’ll be attending meetings so you can plan group activities accordingly.
5. Start Your To-Do List Early
Your holiday to-do list can become extremely long. From grocery shopping to gift wrapping, there are a ton of things to do.
Based on your planned events and obligations, start creating a to-do list. Then, start knocking your items off early. You can shop for gifts and wrap them before the holiday season is in full swing. You can get your holiday cards ready to send in the fall. Whatever you can do early, tackle it now.
6. Communicate With Your Loved Ones
Keep your loved ones in the loop on your sobriety. Discuss your concerns and goals for the holiday season. If you have anxiety about seeing certain people or attending certain events, speak up. Plans can be adjusted as needed to protect your sobriety.
And when your loved ones better understand your struggle, they can better support you. If your cravings hit and become too loud to ignore, don’t be afraid to reach out.
7. Pay Attention to H.A.L.T.
Hungry, angry, lonely and tired — these are the main triggers of relapse. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. Check in with yourself often. Feeling hungry? Eat a nutritious meal. Are you angry? Talk to someone or exercise. Do you feel lonely? Reach out to a loved one. Are you tired? Take a nap or go to bed early.
8. Say “No” Without Guilt
When you’re overworked and stressed out, you may need to say “no” to others. If you feel guilty about this, remember: When you say “no” to added stress, you’re saying “yes” to your sobriety.
9. Develop Plans and Standard Responses for Events
If you’re strong enough in your sobriety to attend an event where there will be alcohol, create an action plan. Bring your own non-alcoholic drinks with you, so you don’t need to approach the bar for a soda. Formulate how you’ll respond when someone offers you a drink or questions why you’re not drinking.
Your response can be as simple as “I’m not a drinker.” If you’re seeing people who you haven’t seen since your drinking days, you can respond with “I just feel better when I don’t drink.”
10. Keep Your Sobriety Sacred
The most important and meaningful gift you can give your family and friends is your ongoing sobriety. You are the best you can be when drugs and alcohol aren’t in your life. Protecting your sobriety should be your goal every day. Before making any decision, ask yourself “Is this best for my sobriety”?