Staying Sober During the Holidays
The holidays can be so stressful! How can you stay sober?
The book of Alcoholics Anonymous promises that recovered alcoholics can go anywhere and do anything that regular people do, with the exception of drinking, provided that they are indeed recovered and have a legitimate reason for being there. For those newly in recovery, though, experiencing the holidays for the first time in sobriety can be challenging.
The holidays from Halloween through the New Year are full of parties, get-togethers, and activities with family, friends, and coworkers. Even without these celebrations, the holidays are generally the most stressful time of the year due to full social calendars, financial stress, traveling, and spending a lot of time with family.
Many of these stressors can lead one to a drink or a drug if that has been their “go to” for coping. Once one has begun a life of recovery, these coping tools are no longer viable. So what can you do instead??
Here are some things to consider while trying to stay sober through the holidays:
1. Maintain Your Spiritual Practice
Focusing on one’s spiritual practice is a big part of recovery for many people. Most 12-step programs encourage finding a higher power or a god of your own understanding to help you with your recovery path. It’s important to maintain your current spiritual practice, whatever that entails. If this isn’t something that you currently use, you might consider adding in prayer, meditation, yoga, or simple breathing exercises to help you in moments of stress where you might normally drink or use during the holidays.
2. Keep Your Meeting Schedule
If you already have a meeting schedule and you are not traveling for the holidays, it’s important to keep your routine. If you have a homegroup make sure you go regardless of what day of the week it falls on (for example, if your home group falls on Christmas Eve, can you still go to your home group and then spend time with your family before or after?). Many meeting places or Alano Clubs offer marathon meetings 24 hours a day throughout the holidays as well. This is a great opportunity to add meetings into your current schedule for the holiday season.
3. Be of Service or Volunteer
Being of service is also a big part of 12-step programs and can help you get outside of your head when you’re thinking about drinking or using. The holidays are a great time to be of service as there are often soup kitchens serving families for the holidays, or donation locations accepting goods for the underserved, or military bases accepting cookies or gifts for service members overseas. There are so many ways to be of service during the holidays that you can surely find something that you would enjoy doing.
4. Indulge in Self-Care
Self-care is important throughout the holidays, whether you feel like drinking or not. The holidays can be stressful for anyone with all of the additional activities and time spent with family so listening to your personal needs – mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual – is very important. 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.
5. Set Boundaries with Family
Setting healthy boundaries with your family is important to recovery, especially during the holidays. While every family situation is unique, you may find that you need to spend just a little less time with your family so that you can balance your meeting schedule as well as your self-care routine. You may also need to explain to your family that you have commitments at meetings or other sober events that are vital to your recovery and your sobriety during this holiday season. If members of your family drink or use drugs, you may also need to set new boundaries that not drink or use when they are with you and do not offer you alcohol or drugs. If being around these substances in any way causes you to feel like you could slip, you will want to have a plan for excusing yourself from activities and engaging in relaxing alternatives (see item 4 above, and item 6 below).
6. Use the Buddy System
The buddy system is another great tool for surviving and having fun at holiday events. If this is your first sober holiday and you will be attending parties where there will be alcohol, consider inviting a sober friend to come with you. This is a great way to have someone there to help you hold yourself accountable as well as introduce your family (and your coworkers, if it’s appropriate for you to do so) to your new way of life.
7. Have an Exit Strategy
Your buddy can also be an exit strategy at any holiday event where you might feel uncomfortable and need to leave. It’s always a good idea on your first holiday outings to have an escape plan in place so that you don’t feel guilty leaving if you need to. You can also have a friend or family member available to call and even pick you up if you need to leave. Remember that protecting your sobriety is your first priority.
8. Call your sponsor
If you are in a 12-step program, make sure your sponsor knows that you’re going to be at certain holiday events, and stay in contact with them. If you can’t bring a buddy with you, your sponsor or other members of your program can help you hold yourself accountable by being available by phone. Make sure to stay connected to your sober group regardless of what events and activities you’re involved in.
9. Keep a Journal
Journaling is a key part of a thorough 12-step program. A daily written 10th step or just the journaling of your feelings can be very therapeutic in a time of stress, such as your first sober holidays. A journal of your holiday experiences also gives you something to share with your sponsor after the holidays in order to gain further insights.
10. Attend Therapy or Group
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 Any Change to Your 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!