For most people, the holidays are about spending time with family, being loved, and having fun. But, if you’re a recovering alcoholic, facing the holiday season can be significantly more challenging. If you’re alone and preparing to face Christmas and New Year’s without your family and friends, it can be even more daunting.
But, just because you’re on your own doesn’t mean you have to relapse. You should expect to be tempted or even triggered, nearly everyone will be drinking, but you’re still in control of what you do. With a little planning and preparation, you can ensure that you’re ready to face the holidays alone, stay sober, and hopefully have a little fun at the same time.
You Don’t Need Alcohol to Have a Good Time
Most of us grow up with the kind of insinuation that alcohol is a necessary part of a party. Most of us have childhood memories of watching parents drink, often too much and grew up waiting to sneak alcohol into teen parties. It’s just ‘what you do’. But, while it’s socially normal to drink to have fun, it’s not a necessary part of it.
In fact, there are plenty of ways to have fun over the holidays without ever touching a drop of alcohol:
Attend a Sober Party – Most AA and sobriety groups host some form of sober party over Christmas and New Year’s. If you’re out of town, you can ask to join one as a guest and explain your situation. If you’re at home, you can ask around and attend one thrown by your local group, or throw one yourself. If you plan a sober party yourself, you do have to plan activities like games or TV, plan food, and, of course, non-alcoholic beverages.
Go for a Hike or Walk – Exercise and activity not only help you to pass time, they can also be fun and they can help you to feel better. Exercise releases serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which can make you happier, reduce cravings, and boost your energy. If it’s too cold out for a walk or hike, you can do plenty of things indoors like yoga, roller skating, ice skating, indoor skiing, and much more. Try to bring a friend if you can.
Find Something You Like to Do – If you can’t spend time with people you know and love around the holidays, you can entertain yourself with things you like to do. Just be cautious of spending too much time alone or tiring yourself out, which can trigger HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) which act as triggers for addiction.
Go to a Sobriety Meeting
Going to AA or another sobriety meeting might not sound like your idea of a good time, but it does get you out, around people who are going through the same things as you, and into a situation where you can talk about your feelings without judgement. Going to AA on Christmas and New Year’s will also put you in the right frame of mind, so you remember why you’re staying sober and have something to hold yourself accountable to.
If you’re away from friends and family for business or travel reasons, find a group in your area before you travel, try to contact or email them in advance, and attend as a guest.
Most of us like the holidays because we get to give to others, you can still do that even if your family and friends are gone. Volunteering your time is a rewarding and positive thing to do, even if it’s just for a few hours. Some of the Christmas and New Year’s volunteering opportunities involve soup kitchens, working in domestic shelters, handing out food and blankets, or donating your specific skills and time to the needy. You should not typically volunteer around recovering addicts who might still have alcohol, primarily because you might slip up if tempted.
Volunteering actually releases serotonin and dopamine in the brain, giving you a rush of happiness, and reducing cravings. Plus, you’ll be doing something good with your time, and you can be proud of yourself and what you’re doing. If you’re attending an afterparty or are in an area where alcohol might be served, you should discuss your history with the manager or the group before starting, and ask them to be courteous and not offer you alcohol.
Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself is an often-overlooked part of being alone, but one that’s important for maintaining your psychological and physical health. The kid in you might want to watch movies and eat pizza while the laundry and dishes pile up, but these things will just leave you feeling miserable. Take care of yourself, get exercise, shower at least once a day, keep your house, apartment, or hotel clean and tidy, and if you can, cook yourself a nice dinner to celebrate the holiday. If you can’t cook, reserve a nice meal in a restaurant and discuss that you can’t have alcohol with your waiter upfront.
Have a Backup Plan
Everyone drinks around the holidays. You will most likely end up in a situation where someone is trying to hand you alcohol and they may even be belligerent and rude if you turn it down. Have a backup plan, decide what you will do, and decide how you will tackle cravings.
You likely know what causes cravings, how they feel, and what to avoid. Many people find that writing out a list helps to clarify why and how those things cause cravings. It’s also helpful to write out options or responses to each of those things, so you have a response in place. For example, did you know that most cravings don’t last more than 15 minutes? If you can keep yourself occupied, you can get past it and you can maintain your sobriety. If you start craving alcohol, try setting a timer on your phone for 15 or 20 minutes and then doing something productive. Clean your house, your car, take a walk (not near a liquor store), play a video game, put together a puzzle, call a sober buddy, build something. If you can distract yourself until the craving is gone, you can keep going.
It’s always important to have someone to call or that you can talk to. If none of your family or friends are able, you can ask someone at your sobriety group to be your sober buddy. If you’re lonely, experiencing cravings, or just need someone to talk to, you can call them and talk – and it will help.
You’ve put a lot of work into your recovery. No matter how much you want a drink, no matter how much you miss holiday parties, and no matter how lonely or tired you feel on your own, the brief enjoyment from drinking won’t make up for losing the work you put into your sobriety. It’s important to keep that and your motivations to stay sober in mind.
But, it’s also important to plan your time, to try to have fun where you can, and to do things you enjoy. Sober doesn’t mean boring and it certainly doesn’t mean no fun.
Enjoy your sober holiday.
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.