The holiday season can be a challenging time for those recovering from addiction. In the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years, holiday parties and family gatherings are plentiful and the temptation to drink or use drugs can be extremely difficult for addicts trying to maintain their sobriety. Preparing yourself ahead of time with a plan to handle temptation and triggers can be the key to staying sober during the holidays.
12 tips to stay sober this holiday season
- Remind yourself EVERY DAY how great it feels to be sober. Tape a note to your bathroom mirror, make it your morning mantra, do whatever you need to do to start your day off with the gratitude for your hard earned sobriety. Starting your day by reminding yourself that you want to remain sober will make facing temptations throughout the day easier to handle.
- Create new holiday traditions. Maybe in the past your holidays were spent with buddies celebrating in a bar or at a family gathering chatting over a glass of wine. Why not take the family on a sleigh ride, take the kids ice skating or play a board game with friends over a nice cup of tea? Use your imagination, you might be surprised at the great response people have to new and different ways to celebrate.
- Have an exit plan. You can still enjoy gift giving and Christmas dinner but there’s no good reason to stay and suffer through an evening of after dinner drinking. Bring your own car so you can leave when you want. Take in a movie, go for a walk, head to bed early with the satisfaction of knowing you made it through another day sober.
- If you plan to travel, find addiction support groups before you leave home. Knowing you have a support system in place before you travel can give you the strength you need to get through the holidays without alcohol or drugs. Having someone to talk to you when you feel close to relapsing can be your key to staying sober at Christmas.
- Take care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep. Drink lots of water. Exercise. Meditate. Maintaining your usual recovery routine will help you stay on track even when everyone else around you is indulging during the holidays.
- Plan each day this holiday season. Surround yourself with friends and family who support your recovery. Spend your time with people who you feel comfortable talking to if you feel triggered and who understand how difficult recovery is. They do not need to be recovering addicts, just people who make the effort to understand and support your desire to stay sober.
- Make a plan to deal with triggers. You know what works best for you. An inspiring book, a jog, a prayer, a support group, a friend who will listen. Whatever it is, make sure it is accessible to you this holiday season.
- Have a plan to stay sober at parties. Spend a little time thinking about what you will say if someone offers you a drink or some drugs. You do not have to mention that you are recovering if that is uncomfortable. “I have a long drive home,” “I’m good, thanks.” Having 2 or 3 polite responses prepared in advance can really help you stay the course.
- Have a sober buddy. There’s no reason you have to face temptation alone. Having a friend who will commit to staying sober with you during a party or event can make a world of difference when it comes to saying no to drinking or taking drugs this holiday season. Even if they have never struggled with addiction, knowing there is someone close by who is sober and supportive can be extremely helpful.
- Don’t get nostalgic. Romanticizing the “good old days” will only make staying sober harder. Be honest with yourself and remember your last drink. Your last high. Your last hangover. Your last arrest. Whatever it looked like, your life as an addict was ugly and depleting. Be honest with yourself about that and remind yourself of what your addiction really looked like on a daily basis.
- Help others. You used to party, well now you serve. Help those in need, volunteer at a soup kitchen, offer a hand to a local animal shelter. Spending your time helping will make you feel good and remind you that you are more than your addiction.
- Be present. Don’t worry about what you have done or what you might do. You have only this moment so be present in it. You do not know what tomorrow will bring but you do know that you have chosen sobriety today and that is worthy of celebration!