Staying Sober During the Holidays
bHolidays can bring stress for many reasons. How do you stay sober?
Twelve-step program guidance tells us that sober alcoholics and addicts can celebrate the holidays without drinking or drugging, provided they have developed a strong foundation of recovery and are mindful of their surroundings.
The holidays from Halloween through the New Year are full of potential stressors: social events, financial obligations, travel, and close encounters with family. It’s easy to see how a drink or a drug is a potential go-to solution for coping. Here are some thoughts on staying sober despite holiday stress:
1. Maintain your spiritual practice: A hectic holiday social or travel schedule may challenge one’s daily spiritual routine of meditation, prayer, yoga and the like. Keep in mind that your spiritual routine is likely a vital part of what has kept you sober, and that maintaining it and, better yet, enhancing it during the holidays, is key to holiday sobriety.
2. Keep hitting recovery meetings: During the holidays, maintaining your existing recovery meeting schedule may be a little more difficult than maintaining your spiritual routine, particularly if you are traveling or your scheduled meetings are pre-empted by other events. The good news is threefold: First, there are online recovery schedules practically everywhere you travel to, so you can locate meetings in your vicinity. Second, there are a great many online meetings via Zoom. Third, a great many locations hold marathon meetings on major holidays. Generally, the recovery meeting options are more plentiful during the holidays. You can find meetings that fit your schedule.
3. Use your support system: Your twelve-step sponsor, if you have one, and every other friend, family member and mentor who has helped you stay sober up until now are likely to remain your best resources for staying physically, as well as emotionally, sober through the holidays. Let the appropriate person(s) know that you’re going to be at certain holiday events and stay in contact with them. If you can’t bring a sober buddy with you to an event, your sponsor or other members of your program can help you hold yourself accountable by being available by phone. Stay connected to your sober group regardless of what events and activities you’re involved in.
4. Be of service: One great way to shift your attention from drinking or using is to perform service for others. There is a variety of opportunities to make the holidays brighter for others including families in need, military servicemembers, and homeless individuals. Do some advance planning by searching online and signing up for various volunteer opportunities.
5. Engage in self-care: While service to others is vital, it is absolutely essential to remember one’s own mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Take time to breathe and relax. Take a bath, take a nap, take a walk in nature, and in summary take care of yourself so that you can be present and participating in the holidays with your friends and family while at the same time mindful of your sobriety.
6. Have a good reason for attending: From the professional or social standpoint, some events where alcohol or legal drugs are present may be important to attend. It’s vital for anyone in recovery to be attending such celebrations with the pure motive of socializing in a way that will not compromise their recovery. Those people in your sober support system can help you be sure that you are.
7. Set boundaries with family: While you want to be a good family member and participate in scheduled festivities, it’s important to remember to balance family time with your recovery routine and needs. Ensure that your spiritual practices and recovery meetings are balanced with family commitments. And here is an important one, particularly for newly sober people: Consider your individual vulnerability. If members of your family drink or use drugs and being around these substances in any way causes you to feel like you could slip, then have a plan that includes (a) excusing yourself from those activities, and (b) engaging in positive alternatives.
8. Have an exit strategy: Be ready ahead of time to leave an event at which you are feeling vulnerable to a slip. If you do not feel safe saying why you are leaving, you can always say that you are tired. Additionally, ensure ahead of time that you have transportation that gives you the option to leave when you need to.. Remember that protecting your sobriety is your first priority.
9. Keep a journal: Be it a daily written 10th step inventory or the recording of your experiences and feelings, journaling can be very therapeutic in times of stress such as holidays. A journal of your holiday experiences also gives you something to share with your support system in order to gain further insights.
10. Keep your therapy and counseling sessions: If you are involved in an inpatient or outpatient program that includes therapy or group counseling, make every effort to attend. If these are not part of your sobriety, you may consider adding therapy as a way to deal with stressors that are more concentrated during the holidays.
11. Minimize changes to your daily routine: The daily routine that has kept you sober through today is all the more important in helping you to keep your sanity and your sobriety throughout the holiday season. Each seemingly small sober action that you take each day, from your wake-up time to when you go to bed, combines with the other small sober actions that you take to build you a foundation that will keep you safe, sane and sober. It’s easy to get out of your routine during the holidays, but you – with the help of your friends in sobriety – can stay on your path. And should you miss a commitment or a part of your daily sober routine, go easy on yourself and resolve to do the next thing in your schedule that nourishes your sobriety.
12. Go to sober events or create new traditions with your sober family: The holidays do not have to be stressful or scary for the newly sober!! There are so many new and exciting things to experience during a sober holiday season. First, you will likely remember everything that happened and you will avoid the physical sickness and remorse that may have made you feel so hopeless in the past. Being free and clear of alcohol and drugs promises you the ability to fully enjoy your holidays. You will also find that there are a great many sober holiday events and activities out there for you to enjoy, and new traditions for you to establish with your friends and family.
Can I Do It?
You can stay sober through the holidays and you can enjoy them. The tips contained in this blog are the offerings of alcoholics and addicts who have come before you and are leading happy, productive lives as clean and sober individuals. If you need any help at all or you think you might be an alcoholic or addict, please give us a call. We’d love to see how we can help you.
To our readers: If there is any other advice you have for staying sober through the holidays, we’d love to hear from you!