Many of us feel our stress levels rise over the holidays, as we struggle with over-commitment, less sleep, unhealthy eating, financial strain, and exhaustion. For those in recovery, navigating the holidays can be especially challenging.
Not only do holiday gatherings often center around alcohol, but they may also include people, traditions, locations, or situations that have triggered past addictive behavior.
Holidays can still be enjoyable and not endanger your sobriety. By being proactive and planning how to stay on your recovery path, whether it’s during the holidays or any other time of the year, you can maintain your hard-earned sobriety.
Prepare to Stay Sober
There is nothing more important than your sobriety. By consciously putting your recovery first and resolutely working your recovery plan, your chances of long-term success are good.
Remember why you chose recovery and refuse to have your recovery derailed by trigger situations. If you are new to recovery or otherwise feeling vulnerable, resolve to say “no” to people, locations, or events that have triggered your past addictive behavior. People that support you and your journey will understand. Here are three key strategies to get started:
1. Increase support group attendance and counseling sessions
Counseling can help you achieve a deeper understanding of how past experiences have shaped your expectations related to the holidays, as well as how to successfully negotiate the holidays as a sober person.
Attend your support group every day or multiple times per day, as needed. Fellow support group members have valuable insights as to how to manage the holidays.
2. Plan to succeed
Decide ahead of time how to respond if someone offers you a drink or another addictive substance. Whether you decline because you’re in recovery, because you’re the “designated driver”, or for another reason is completely up to you. Never be afraid to say “no thanks.” Other ways to plan ahead include:
- Always bring your own non-alcoholic drinks.
- Bring a sober friend with you, if possible.
- Decide what you will do if you become uncomfortable. Know exactly who you can call for help, and how you will get home.
- If you are anxious at the thought of seeing certain people or attending a particular event, be strong, and say “no.” Your recovery is far more important than disappointing the person issuing the invitation. Again, if they genuinely care, they will support your journey.
- Download the free app SoberTool on your phone, for immediate, helpful messages to help you stay on track when you’re feeling vulnerable.
3. Health and stress management
The greater your physical, mental, and spiritual health, the more likely you are to stay strong in recovery. Engage in regular exercise, eat nutritious meals, get sufficient sleep, meditate, practice stress management skills, interact with sober friends, be creative, and give thanks every day for the gift of sobriety.
Give to others. Visit a lonely neighbor, help out at a food bank, organize a toy drive for children or find another way to give. One study concluded that “volunteering can be more effective in maintaining recovery from drug or alcohol addiction than medical interventions.”
By taking a two-pronged approach by keeping recovery goals first and planning ahead, you can experience an enjoyable, sober holiday season.
Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987.