Entering the Holiday Season Sober and Stress-Free
The time of year when families and friends gather for the holidays is fast approaching. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve can bring about a wide range of emotions for many. For some, warm nostalgia and love of family. For others, it may be sadness and loss in remembering those who are no longer here to celebrate the holidays.
Many people feel a certain amount of anxiety around the holidays as well. It’s far more common than you might imagine. The hassles of air travel or highway traffic on the busiest driving days of the year can easily lower one’s stress tolerance. Worries about political arguments or family bickering over the dinner table are other common concerns. Perhaps entering the holidays stress-free is too lofty a goal, but staying sober this season is definitely within reach with the right practices in place.
Drugs and Drinking on the Holidays
For most of us, the holidays are an invitation to unwind a bit and let loose. Drugs and drinking are frequently used during this time of year. The problem is some people let loose more than others and many let loose more than perhaps they should.
People in recovery often find the holidays challenging. That’s especially true for people in early recovery. If you’re used to having a few (or more than a few) drinks before and after the big dinner or event, that’s no longer on the agenda if you are sober and in recovery.
So, how can you avoid drugs and alcohol on the holidays while still having a good time? Not to worry, we’ve got some solid tips for you.
Plan Ahead to Avoid Drugs and Alcohol on the Holidays
This one might seem obvious, but many people still don’t bother to do it. If no one has told you this yet – if you’re in recovery, it’s important to have a plan to stay sober on the holidays. Unfortunately, this is the time of year when many people end up picking up a white chip or key tag. But you have more than a fighting chance of avoiding all that – if you can plan ahead.
Some things you can do in advance to help protect your recovery include:
- Schedule calls to check in with your sponsor and sober supports, at least once a day.
- Find a meeting wherever you will be and make it to at least one meeting, minimum.
- Bring drinks for yourself, energy drinks or a bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling cider if you feel the need to do so.
- Reach out to anyone else in recovery or who is sober beforehand and stick together.
Be Open About Your Recovery – Talk About Sobriety
If you’re at all comfortable with it, tell friends and family how you are going about your recovery. Share any concerns you have about drugging and drinking on the holidays with them. It’s not realistic to expect that alcohol will not be served, although some may voluntarily offer this. You can always ask that they not offer you alcohol, to avoid any awkwardness. If you expect anyone might do something other than drinking, try to be cognizant of who that might be and where it might happen so that you can avoid if need be. Even if it means missing out on a little social interaction, your recovery is too valuable to risk.
Communication is key, you can help protect your recovery by:
- Talk to your hosts beforehand about any concerns you have about alcohol or drugs.
- Avoid places where drugs might be or where you may be alone with people who use.
- If you are comfortable, you can make it known that you do not drink or use drugs.
- Also, be clear that you’re not sitting in judgment of anyone else. You’re only responsible for your own sobriety while you’re there.
Work Your Program of Recovery
In addition to making a meeting or two wherever you happen to be, think about what else you can do for your recovery while you’re there. There are 12-step meetings almost everywhere in the country and they occur through the holidays, so no excuses. What else might you do? If you’ll be out of town, bring your Big Book or NA Basic Text, bring some inspirational reading, or download recovery-related audiobooks to your phone.
Think of these things as additional pieces of armor that protect you. Practicing self-care is essential for people in recovery and it becomes even more important during the holiday season when emotions may run high and temptation abounds. Remember your self-care and make it a priority. If you don’t have somewhere to be on the holidays, check with your local AA or NA Intergroup. Many areas have extra meetings during the holidays along with sober parties and gatherings. Some areas even run 24-hour around-the-clock meetings on New Year’s Eve.
Some different ways you can rely on your program during the holiday season include:
- Bring your Big Book or NA Basic Text if you go out of town.
- Download speaker tapes or inspirational audiobooks to your phone.
- If you need a place to go, attend holiday parties at 12-step meeting houses.
- Exercise self-care always and keep your mind occupied with healthy, positive content.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol on the Holidays through Planning and Strategy
Remember that you’re not alone. The holidays are a challenge for lots of people. Others who are in recovery will understand your situation better than most though. Stay connected to your sponsor and your sober supporters throughout the holiday season or any other time you feel especially vulnerable to the temptation to drink or use. Sometimes, all it takes is calling someone and spending 5-10 minutes talking to them and the urge to use will inevitably pass.
We hope the advice we provided is helpful to you and that you and the people you love have a beautiful holiday season. Remember to stay humble and grateful and don’t isolate yourself. We recover together.
North Jersey Recovery Center has helped thousands of people recover from addiction and heal from co-occurring mental health disorders. We can help you or your loved one too. But you have to make the first move. Contact us at (877) 790-5873 or submit your information here to see how we can help.