When you are in recovery, the stress and festivities of the holidays can present an additional challenge to staying sober. Remembering that you are not alone – and planning ahead on how to approach the season – can help maintain your recovery, and your peace of mind.
The holidays can be a strange brew of seasonal cheer and significant stress. If you are newly sober, you may be particularly concerned about how you’ll manage through the season. Many people in recovery acknowledge that the holidays are a difficult time of year; for some the constant flow of alcohol at holiday parties and events is the key concern, while others have a hard time coping with the anxiety and stress of family dynamics and seasonal expectations.
The truth is whether you are newly sober, years into your recovery, or simply choosing to abstain from drinking alcohol this holiday season, navigating sobriety during a time when having a celebratory drink is commonplace has its challenges.
Thinking through how you will manage the holidays and your recovery is a critical component of maintaining your sobriety and starting the new year off in a better place. Here are six tips to help you stay sober and healthy over the holiday season:
Tip 1: Make Sobriety Your Mantra
First things first: establish the expectations for yourself that this is going to be a sober season, and make a plan by which to keep it that way. Prepare for people to offer you a drink, ask why you are not drinking, and in some cases even pressure you to have one regardless. If you need to, practise how you’ll decline, and what you’ll say if questioned or pushed. Being ready for situations like this makes you feel more confident when they arise – and pleasantly surprised if they don’t.
Tip 2: Bring a Friend…Who Also Doesn’t Drink
You may want to join in on the holiday festivities, but at the same time feel concerned about getting carried away. Being surrounded by others who are drinking, and possibly encouraging you to drink as well, can be immensely triggering and dangerous to your sobriety.
Having a supportive friend or family member who can help you to celebrate sober can help you have fun and finish out the night without a drink. If things become overly challenging or stressful, a good friend can help you know when it’s time to walk away – and be there with you when you do.
Tip 3: Rediscover Holiday Cheer
Many people struggling with a dependency on alcohol note an uptick in drinking during the holidays. During recovery, you may feel a bit lost as to how to integrate into holiday events or activities without a drink. However, the space that sobriety provides can actually be quite exciting, as it allows for self-discovery. Holly Whitaker, founder of The Temper, a website on sobriety, addiction and recovery, explained, “It’s not about never getting to drink again; it’s about never having to drink again.”
Start by asking yourself what new events, traditions, or activities can you incorporate into the season. Many people find that giving back in some way, such as by volunteering, helps to meaningfully connect with others. Others may take pleasure in reinventing their typical holiday activities to build upon their newfound health or burgeoning interests. You may declare a two-week “treat yourself” period. The possibilities are endless: when you focus on what potential excitement awaits you, sobriety does not become a restriction, but an opportunity.
Tip 4: Know Your Triggers, Respect Your Limits
Uncertain about the office holiday party because you know your boss is going to push you to have “just one drink”? Struggling with sitting through a dysfunctional family dinner? Dreading coming face-to-face with an abusive ex at an annual gathering? If you are concerned that a situation is going to put your sobriety at serious risk, this may be the year to skip it.
A key part of staying in recovery is the rigorous practice of self-care. Understanding your triggers, how to handle them, and how to respect your own boundaries is what keeps you safe, both emotionally and physically. You have the right to remain home, go to a movie, take a walk or hang out with a good friend instead.
Tip 5: Don’t Rush…Rest
The importance of rest to recovery cannot be overestimated. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season by trying to make every gathering or event, or packing in some last-minute holiday shopping. The problem is that if you are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, this poses a risk to your recovery.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t be exposed to any stress – it is a normal part of life, and certainly common during the holidays. What it does mean is that just like a physical workout, if you are exerting yourself, you need to be mindful of then taking it easy and giving yourself time to recharge. Our brains are just like our bodies in that they need time to repair and rejuvenate when they’ve been pushed. This practice ultimately keeps your mind healthy, your coping skills strong, and your recovery sustainable.
Tip 6: If You Relapse, Reach Out
Despite your best efforts, you may experience a relapse over the holiday season. It can be incredibly difficult to be open about this, and you might feel disappointed, ashamed, or even hopeless about your recovery. As painful as it is, relapse is a fairly common aspect of recovery. The key to getting back on track is not to try to hide it, but to be honest about it and reach out for additional support.
Connect as soon as you can with your addiction counsellor or sponsor and let them know what happened. They will know how to help you process the relapse, and how to guide you through the next steps. You may want to also reach out to trusted friends or family to talk to them and gain support. Dependency thrives in secrecy – stay on the path to recovery by opening up and getting help.
If you’re feeling as though you are on the brink of relapsing, or you have already experienced a relapse, you may want to consider checking yourself into an inpatient rehab facility for some comprehensive and professional support while you regain your recovery. Many people find that the specialised attention and care they get during an inpatient experience strengthens their recovery, giving them new tools for coping with challenging situations and building healthy habits.
Celebrating Your Sobriety with The Dawn
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab is a unique, Thailand-based drug and alcohol rehab centre designed to promote an atmosphere of personal growth, healing, and self-discovery. Licensed by the Thai Ministry of Health, The Dawn offers customised programmes that fit your needs and address co-occuring mental health issues as well.
A Rehab Journey in Thailand
Located just outside the world-renowned tourism destination of Chiang Mai, Thailand, our centre sits on a picturesque riverbank on the outskirts of the city. In this serene and soothing environment, you will benefit from our “Twin Pillars” approach, which comprehensively addresses your addiction by combining the most effective Western psychotherapeutic techniques with proven Eastern wellness practices such as meditation, yoga, massage therapy, and fitness training.
This holiday season, make sure that your recovery is on the top of your to-do list. Call The Dawn today to learn more about how we can help you stay sober, healthy, and ready for the new year.