Whether it’s a day for wearing green in spring, fireworks in the summer, or a jack o’ lantern in the fall. Any holiday can make it difficult to maintain one’s sobriety. However, staying sober during the holidays in the winter – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa – can be even more demanding. The sad fact about the holidays is that they can remind one of as many bad things as they can good. Despite being “the most wonderful time of the year,” it can be the most dangerous for those in recovery. The holidays are bursting with triggers and can often add unwanted stress to everyday life. However, there are some useful tips on staying sober during the holidays and avoiding triggers.
Recovery is an ongoing process. Sobriety takes a renewal of commitment almost every day. But no matter what time of year it is, a sober life is possible. If you are ready to find yours or if you need assistance making it through another day sober, call us at 405-583-4390 to speak with an addiction specialist. They can guide you to whatever treatment you may need to help you attain or maintain your sobriety. Remember, you can overcome addiction.
Do you need assistance with staying sober over the holidays? Continue reading below for more information, or contact us today to talk to our experts.
Tip 1: Always Have a Plan
A quote often attributed to the founding father, Benjamin Franklin states: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Whether or not he actually said it, the statement remains true. Moreover, it especially applies when considering sobriety. The holidays are often one of the craziest times of the year. From packed shopping centers to family gatherings, the busyness and stress can be overwhelming and potentially trigger drinking and/or drug use. There are a number of strategies for dealing with this. However, the best advice for anyone in recovery is to always have a plan. The plan does not have to be overly specific or extreme; it just needs to provide a suitable alternative to a trigger, triggering behavior, or an event or activity that may lead to a trigger or triggers.
How to Plan for Staying Sober During the Holidays:
- Know your triggers: Identifying what triggers your craving or cravings for a substance or substances is the start. Try making a list of things to avoid; however, try not to dwell too heavily on the list.
- Anticipate: No one knows the future, but patterns can be identified. For example, if you know that your uncle’s holiday party has involved lots of drinking in the past, take that into account when deciding either to attend, make an appearance, or do something else instead.
- Consider alternatives: There are plenty of enjoyable activities one can do while sober, even during the holidays. Find which activities interest you most and keep them in mind.
Whatever plan you make, it does not need to be all-encompassing. It just needs to be a conscious effort to identify your triggers, anticipate what may set them off, and give yourself some healthy alternatives instead.
Tip 2: Lean on Your Support Network
Whether from a sponsor, therapist, friend, or family member, support is often the key to coping with stress during the holidays and staying sober. In a post on the Harvard Medical School Health Blog, Dr. Peter Grinspoon explains this: “Recovery, if about anything, is about connecting with other people. It is about far more than just the absence of drugs or alcohol. Addiction slowly robs you of your relationships, as you become emotionally obsessed with your drug of choice. With recovery comes a blossoming of human connection, interaction, meaning, and hope. In order to recover, we learn tools to keep ourselves centered, such as humility, compassion, listening skills, and mindfulness. We learn to ask for help, and not try to internalize and fix all of our problems on our own. The holidays present a perfect opportunity to reach into your recovery toolbox and use any and all of these tools.”
Overcoming an addiction requires support. While it does take your own commitment to begin the journey, it is not one that typically is or should be walked alone. As Dr. Grinspoon explains, recovery is often about being able to reclaim one’s relationships with others. The people you reconnect with or meet during recovery help shape the person you become going forward in your sober life. Their support is encouraging and understanding, which is why they can be the best people to turn to during the holidays. As Grinspoon mentions, many who go through substance abuse treatment learn to acknowledge that everyone needs help, and the holidays can be the perfect time to ask for it. Reach out to our specialists if you need help getting through the holidays.
Tip 3: Attend Meetings or Support Groups
If visiting family and friends may be detrimental to your sobriety but you want to do something to keep your mind occupied, attending a meeting, support group, or an event thrown by a recovery group might be your best option. Support and recovery groups exist to aid in sober living, and they understand how difficult it can be while avoiding triggers during the holidays. Oftentimes, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or local substance abuse treatment centers will host extra meetings during this time of year. These meetings are held during different times to make it easier for those who need or want to attend. If these still do not work for you, most cities host holiday “recovery-a-thons,” 24-hour recovery meeting events that can not only help occupy one’s mind but give all attendees the chance to meet new, sober friends and have a good, trigger-free time during the holidays.
Another option for coping with stress during the holidays and staying sober is to create or hang out with a sober family, as opposed to your biological family. Sober families are what one would expect: a group of people who bond and become close during their recovery. One’s sober family will understand more than anyone else the difficulty that can come for those in recovery during the holidays. They often understand, appreciate, and even anticipate triggers and triggering behaviors, so they may be the best solution for support and empathy during the holiday season. If you have a sober family, consider throwing a recovery party of your own. However, if you have not found your sober family, consider giving us a call. We would love to be part of yours by giving you the help you need with your recovery.
Tip 4: Go to or Host Recovery Safe Parties
Part of the fun of the holiday season is the parties and gatherings. While they can often be problematic for those trying to stay sober during the holidays, there are things to look for in potential parties and events, whether as an attendee or a host. Here is a list of what to look for in a recovery safe party:
- Focused Entertainment: sometimes the focus of a party can be on the drinking, and everything else falls by the wayside. In a recovery safe party, the focus of the entertainment should be on games, conversation, and/or food.
- Nonalcoholic beverages: whether or not there is alcohol being served as well, a recovery safe party should obviously have nonalcoholic options. These may include mock-tails; however, the host or hosts should check in with those attending whether these are safe and will not trigger or potentially trigger anyone.
- Allies: It is important whether one is hosting or attending another’s party to bring or have an ally/allies waiting: someone immediately available for support if needed.
- Considerate Host(s): Hosting a recovery safe party requires a lot of communication. The host of a recovery safe party should reach out to those attending beforehand to understand what to have and not have at the event.
While it entails some hard work and careful planning, a recovery safe party can be an amazing source of joy for those who are coping with stress during the holidays. After all, that’s what the holidays are all about – getting together with friends and family and simply having a good time. You do not need to suffer through the holidays alone. Contact us today and we can help you get through the holidays this year.
Staying Sober During the Holidays
Staying sober at any time of the year can be demanding but is especially so during the holidays. Triggers are everywhere, and stress is undeniable. However, there are some simple things one can do to help stay sober during the season. Having a plan is a must. By identifying and anticipating triggers, one can give his or herself enjoyable alternatives to get by. It may even be helpful to imagine oneself in a situation where he or she must leave an event or place to avoid triggering an addiction or addictive behavior. The visualization may make it easier. But no matter what happens, there is always support out there. A support network is important to create and keep in mind during the holidays. They may even host or invite you to a recovery safe party or meeting. If not, you can always invite them!
Hopefully, these tips help get you through the holidays sober. Life in recovery is never easy, but it is possible. Just remember, that nothing can happen that is worth giving up your recovery. If you need any further support, reach out to us at 405-583-4390. One of our addiction specialists can discuss recovery with you or even find your treatment if you want to take the first steps toward sobriety. You can overcome!
Written by Richard Morris
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