The holiday season can be one of the most challenging times for people in recovery. It’s filled with temptations and scenarios that might present difficult choices. Indulgent foods and drinks are everywhere, and the demands of scheduling and planning can cause a spike in stress.
It’s also one of the most enjoyable times of the year. It’s a chance to reunite with friends and loved ones, reflect on what you’re grateful for, and celebrate how far you’ve come. It’s possible to have a joyous holiday experience and maintain sobriety through the new year.
This article will list our top ten tips for staying sober and caring for yourself during this holiday season. Follow these steps to sustain your recovery and make your holidays merry and bright.
By now, you likely know the importance of making a plan when entering into a social situation filled with possible triggers. Planning becomes even more vital during the holidays.
For any event you attend, ensure you have a plan. Consider what might happen that evening and how you’ll handle potential encounters with stressful people or situations. If you know there will be alcohol served, rehearse your response.
Always have an escape route you can take if necessary. Let a friend or family member know that you might need to leave or take a break. Arrange your transportation or drive yourself to parties so you can leave if needed.
No matter what you have planned for the holidays, self-care should be your number one priority on your to-do list. It’s easy to get swept away in the chaos of activities, but you must pencil in time for self-care in your calendar. It will help you balance out the stress and stimulation of the season.
Some ideas for self-care during the holidays include:
Your self-care doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. Identify what will help recharge you during a busy time and make your self-care non-negotiable.
Holiday get-togethers are full of temptations, especially alcohol. It’s best to avoid scenarios that you think will seriously challenge your sobriety. If you’re invited to a party you know will lead to excessive drinking, it’s more than acceptable to decline.
It’s likely that you won’t be able to avoid every tempting scenario altogether. That’s where your plan comes in. Knowing what triggers you—whether it’s being hungry, seeing other people drinking appealing cocktails, etc.—will help you know how to sidestep those triggers or figure out how to deal with them in advance.
One of the best ways to plan ahead and set yourself up for success during the holidays is to stay connected with your support network. This includes friends and family, support groups, and the mental health professionals you work with.
Some ways to leverage your sources of support during the holiday season include:
The holiday season is all about spending time with people we care about, so use it to your advantage!
Many holiday traditions and treats revolve around some form of alcohol. Mulled wine, eggnog, and champagne are all common beverages you might see served at a holiday party. You’ll need to steer clear of these drinks and opt for something more sober-friendly.
If you know the hosts or are hosting a party yourself, you can always ask to bring or make an alcohol-free festive beverage. A fancy mocktail or a hot spiced cider will be a huge hit at parties.
If that’s not an option, opt for sparkling water, soda, or juice to simulate the feeling of enjoying a drink with everyone else or avoid questions.
It can feel daunting to find a way to enjoy the holidays when many of your previous traditions involved alcohol or triggers. Try to reframe it as an opportunity to write a new holiday story for yourself, including new traditions to honor this phase of your life.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to new traditions. Some ideas you can try include:
Don’t be afraid to include supportive friends and family in your new activities. Traditions are always better together.
Even with a plan in place and a support network, there’s such a thing as too much of a good time. It’s essential that you know your limits and set firm boundaries around them.
For example, don’t go to a party two nights in a row if you know that could be a trigger for you. Or maybe you want to spend time with your family, but you know that too much time might end up being stressful. Figure out where to draw the line and then stick to it.
If the holiday season is a time of negative associations or loneliness for you, as it is for many people, one of the best antidotes is to stay busy. It’s the perfect time of year to participate in acts of service, which is the perfect gift for your community.
Many local charities, churches, and non-profit organizations are looking for help during the holidays. You can volunteer to work at a food drive, do a charity-based fun run, or gather donations of Christmas gifts for children in need.
Helping others will also help yourself, and keep you focused on the positive aspects of the holiday season.
While it’s important to make your holidays as positive an experience as possible, it’s inevitable that there will be challenges and complicated feelings. Try not to suppress your emotions, as it may make them more difficult to deal with later.
Instead, honor and acknowledge them. Express your feelings to your support group, loved ones, and in therapy. Your holidays might not look the same as they did before, and it’s okay to grieve what you have to let go. It’s the only way to move on.
Not everything is going to be perfect during the holidays—that’s true whether you’re in recovery or not.
Be patient with yourself if things don’t go as planned or if you find yourself cycling through mood changes. You are doing your best; every year will get a little easier. Forgive yourself if you make mistakes, and remember that you aren’t alone.
You don’t have to tackle the holiday season on your own. Whether you’re looking to enter recovery for the first time or if you need additional support, the resources you need are out there.
Jackson House Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers are here for you year-round. Reach out today if you’re ready to start or continue your healing journey.