They holidays are a great time to spend time with family and friends, eat great food, and look back on the year. For individuals in recovery, the holidays can bring back debilitating negative memories and trigger relapse. Simply put, the holidays are filled with landmines waiting to destroy your recovery. If you have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder and are in recovery, it is beyond necessary to have a plan for how to stay sober during the holidays.
How to Stay Sober During the Holidays
- Danger, danger: Make a list of dangerous situations you could encounter over the holidays. Think about your triggers, what has led to relapse in the past, and what types of coping skills you could use. Things like seeing a family member you have conflict with or being in a room with people who are intoxicated may cause cravings. Remember fail to plan, plan to fail and absolutely nothing is worth your recovery. This is a great worksheet to help with planning – here.
- Avoid: Just because it is a holiday does not mean you have to go. You are absolutely entitled to skip an event because your recovery depends on it. Don’t let your Aunt Sharon’s Christmas dinner be the reason you relapse and go on a two month bender, it is not worth it! I can assure you that anyone who really cares about you will tell you to stay home if it is what you need for your recovery.
- Bring a friend: Staying sober with a sober companion is much easier than going in alone. Explain to a friend or family member that you really need their support at this event. You can even come up with a signal or code word for when you need to leave.
- Arrange Transportation: If you must go to an event, arrange transportation ahead of time. Drive yourself there or have a friend ready to pick you up if things go south.
- Minimize: Let’s be honest, a holiday is just another day when you really break it down. Would you relapse on Tuesday just because? No. Don’t allow the holidays to rob you of your recovery because they’re “special.”
- Simple responses: Plan a simple response when people ask if you would like a drink or why you aren’t drinking. You can read my tips on telling people you’re sober, here.
- Keep a drink in your hand: This may sound like crazy advice to give an addict, but when you arrive at an event head straight to the bar. Ask for a non-alcoholic drink and carefully watch them make it. Keep this drink in your hand and refresh it when necessary. People will be less likely to ask you why you aren’t drinking or if you’d life a drink if you already have one.
- Create new traditions: Past holidays may have been spent getting drunk or selling your family’s gifts to score drugs. Your holidays in recovery will be extremely different. Focus on making new traditions with your family or friends. Ask your friends in recovery what new traditions they have developed.
- Share with others: If you are nervous about a situation or fear it may be triggering, do not keep this to yourself. Share your concerns with your sponsor or any other sober support. This is not a time to be “tough” or “brave.”
- Recovery first: Anything you put before your recovery you will lose. Keep your recovery at the forefront this holiday season and you will live to see many more holiday seasons.
Are you or a loved one struggling with maintaining your recovery or want to discuss how to stay sober this holiday season? Give me a call and let’s talk about how counseling can support your program.