How to Maintain Your Sobriety Over the Holidays
For most of us, the holidays are a time of celebration and spending time with family and loved ones, or simply enjoying life with friends. But, for those of us recovering from an alcohol use disorder, the holidays, from Christmas to New Year’s and all the parties and events in between, can be more than challenging.
Not only do you have to battle with your own inner demons and the part of you insisting that just this once is fine, it’s Christmas – you also have to deal with family and friends, alcohol everywhere, and often being put into stressful situations that make you want to drink.
Despite that, the holidays don’t have to mean relapse. By taking the time to prepare, understanding your motivation to stay sober, and planning your time, you can ensure that you are ready to maintain your sobriety over the holidays.
Planning to Be Sober
Whether it’s a Christmas party, an impromptu visit to the bar by colleagues, or your family drinking, you should be prepared to be tempted and probably triggered with alcohol. Nearly everyone uses Christmas and New Year’s as an excuse to drink and staying completely away from alcohol for the duration will likely be impossible.
Instead, you should prepare your motivation, write down why you want to stay sober, try to make a list of reasons to say no.
You should also:
- Find a sober buddy. Who can you talk to when you get cravings?
- Plan a response to cravings. Pick something to do that takes 10-15 minutes or longer and do it when you experience cravings. Most only last 10-15 minutes.
- Get plenty of sleep in advance
- Drink plenty of water and eat before you go out
- Plan something to destress. Meditation, mindfulness, exercise, etc.
- Where are you going? Will there be alcohol? Can you bring your own drinks?
- Who is there? Does everyone know why you are sober? Can you tell them?
- What will you do if there’s alcohol in front of you? Make a plan and decide how you will act.
- What will you do if someone asks if you want a drink? What will you say?
- How will you respond to friends or family asking if you’re not drinking? How will you respond to teasing?
- If you’re at a party, can you handle people nagging you to drink? Many people don’t respond well to others being sober, because it reminds them that they’re drinking. Can you handle someone being belligerent or rude about your sobriety?
Deliberately deciding how to respond to temptation, cravings, and problems gives you a default action to resort to – which is easier than making up your mind while experiencing cravings. Telling yourself “Someone will offer me alcohol and I will say no” is a lot easier than realizing that you have to make a choice when someone actually does hand you alcohol.
No matter what you’re doing on the holidays, chances are you’re spending a lot of time indoors and possibly not moving much. That isn’t good for you or your stress levels, especially if you’re around stressful situations or people.
Exercise actively helps you to stay calm, helps your body to produce endorphins like serotonin and dopamine to naturally reduce cravings, and will overall make you feel better. However, you shouldn’t overdo it. Exhaustion is triggering for many recovering addicts and it likely is for you as well.
Consider planning exercise or activities with family, such as sports, ice skating, hikes and walks, or dancing. You can also go the gym, practice yoga, go to an indoor swimming pool, or get exercise by yourself if you need the peace and quiet.
Spend Time with Others
You probably know that loneliness is a trigger for relapse, and it is even more so around the holidays. Most of us expect to spend the holidays with friends and family, being loved, and surrounded by people who care about us. That doesn’t always happen.
Whether your family is dysfunctional, you’re currently separated from them for whatever reasons, or you’re on your own for other reasons, spending time by yourself can be extremely difficult. Planning to spend time with others will help to boost your mood and will give you the motivation to stay sober. For example, you can:
Attend Sober Parties – Whether you throw one yourself or attend an AA party or one hosted by sober friends, a sober party, where no alcohol is present, can be extremely helpful. If everyone is sober, you don’t have to be on your guard, and you can actually relax. Most types of self-help or support groups throw some sort of holiday parties, and you are likely welcome to join, especially if you’re willing to contribute to the food or helping to decorate before the party. More importantly, if you’re sober and your old friends aren’t, sooner or later they will leave you behind, and you want to have a place to go where you can have fun as well.
Go to AA – Attending meetings may be your last idea of a good time, but it can help you to get in the right mood and can help to ensure that you spend time with others. You’ll also have the opportunity to talk about any cravings you’ve had during the holidays, and you’ll get support from others who are going through the same thing.
Volunteer – Volunteering is a great way to get out, spend time around others, and interact in a social environment. At the same time, studies show that volunteering actually helps you to destress and feel better. Volunteering, and helping others, sends a rush of endorphins to the brain, actively helping you to be happy and reduce cravings.
No matter what you’re doing, you should make sure you have fun. The holidays are a time when you should be doing something you enjoy – even if it’s just so you don’t feel left out. More importantly, you don’t need alcohol to have fun. Doing so means actively taking time to have fun, do things you enjoy, and making time for yourself as much as for other people.
- Spending time with people you love
- Doing activities, you like
- Participating in social activities such as parties, games, dancing, etc.
- Playing games, watching movies, etc.
If you plan to have fun and decide how to do it in advance, you also won’t be left feeling bored and left out, even if most of your old friends or family are drinking. You know who drinks and doesn’t, so you can also plan to spend time with your sober friends or go to events with them.
Staying sober over the holidays can seem impossible, especially if it’s your first year without alcohol. However, with some planning, being prepared for cravings, and taking steps to ensure that you enjoy yourself without alcohol, you will have a good holiday. Most importantly, you will stay sober.
If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors, we’re here to help. Beginnings Treatment Centers is located in beautiful and sunny Southern California in Orange County, which has one of the strongest and most active recovery communities in the United States.