How to Stay Sober During the Holiday Season

This article was written by James Malervy and published by RCA


The holiday season is a time of joy, peace, and celebration. It’s a time when we come together with our friends and family to enjoy good food, tell wonderful stories, and make merry. But for those in addiction recovery, the holidays can be a time of great anxiety and stress. The temptations to use drugs or alcohol are often high, and the triggers to relapse can be everywhere.

It can be challenging to stay focused on your sobriety throughout the holiday season. Between parties, family gatherings, and tempting holiday treats, it is not easy to navigate this time of year without being tempted by old habits or relapsing into old patterns. However, it is possible to stay sober during the holiday season. By following these tips, you can make it through the holidays without relapsing.

Come up with a plan to protect your sobriety

Before the holiday season begins, devise a plan to protect your sobriety. This may mean attending more meetings at your treatment center or sober living house, participating in an online support group, or spending more time with your sponsor. It might also mean finding your transportation to events, knowing how to respond to questions like why you’re not drinking, or limiting your time around stressful situations and difficult people.

With a plan in place, you’ll be better prepared to face the temptations and challenges of the holiday season.

Find alternative activities to participate in

Just because the holiday season is a time of parties and social gatherings doesn’t mean you have to participate in every event. If you know that attending a certain party or gathering will put your sobriety at risk, it’s okay to say no.

You can do plenty of other activities during the holiday season that doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol. Spend time decorating your house, watching holiday movies, baking cookies, or walking in the snow. There are endless possibilities for alternative activities that will be just as fun and festive as any party without the risk of substance abuse.

Limit your time around alcohol

If you’re going to be in a situation where there will be drinking, such as at a holiday party, limit your time around alcoholic beverages. This means getting a non-alcoholic drink for yourself right when you arrive so you don’t have to go back to the bar or buffet line. It also means avoiding people who are intoxicated or who are trying to get you to drink. If you can, find someone at the party who is also sober and spend time talking with them instead.

Focus on your sobriety goals

The holidays are a great time to focus on your sobriety goals. What are your new year’s resolutions? What steps do you need to take to get there? Focusing on your goals will make you less likely to be tempted by drugs or alcohol.

You can also use your sobriety goals as a way to connect with other people who are in recovery. Sharing your goals and plans for the future can help you stay connected to your sobriety and maintain your motivation.

Take care of yourself

The holiday season can be a stressful time, so it’s important to take care of yourself. This means getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly. It also means taking time for yourself when you need it.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break from the holiday festivities and spend some time alone. Meditation, journaling, and spending time in nature can also help you reduce stress and find peace during this chaotic time of year.

Have your support system on call

Your support system is there to help you when you’re struggling. So, make sure they are available during the holiday season. This might mean exchanging phone numbers with your sponsor or treatment center, staying in touch with your sober friends, or calling a hotline if you’re tempted to use drugs or alcohol. Having your support system on-call can help you get through the tough times and maintain your sobriety.

Tweak your holiday traditions

For many people in recovery, the holidays can be a reminder of past drug or alcohol use. If certain holiday traditions trigger you, it’s okay to change them. For example, if you normally drink eggnog at Christmas, try making a non-alcoholic version this year. Or, if you typically spend the holidays with family members who are still using, consider spending time with sober friends instead.

Tweaking your holiday traditions can help you create new, positive memories that don’t involve drugs or alcohol.

Stay helpful

One of the best ways to stay sober is to be helpful. This means helping others in your recovery community, volunteering your time, and giving back to your addiction treatment center or sober living house. You can also visit homeless shelters or people in the hospital to spread holiday cheer.
When you focus on helping others, you’re less likely to think about using drugs or alcohol. Plus, you’ll feel good knowing that you’re making a difference in the lives of others.

Have an exit strategy

If you’re attending a holiday party or event where there will be drugs or alcohol, it’s important to have an exit strategy. This means knowing when to leave and planning how you’ll get home. It’s also a good idea to have someone you can call for support. Having an exit strategy can help you stay safe and sober during the holiday event.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

The holidays can be difficult for anyone, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you have a slip-up. If you use drugs or alcohol, reach out to your support system and get help immediately. Remember that one mistake does not mean that you’re a failure. You can always start fresh and recommit to your sobriety goals.

The holiday season can be difficult for people recovering from mental health and substance use disorders. But by following these tips, you can make it through without relapsing. So take care of yourself, focus on your goals, and reach out to your support system.

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