The holidays are a joyous time for many, but they can also present problems for people who are in recovery. The temptation from holiday gatherings and stress from trying to do too much can create the perfect recipe for relapse. This is why maintaining your recovery during the holidays should start early. Be sure that you plan your events carefully, make self-care a priority and increase your support.
Below are seven tips for maintaining sobriety over the holiday season.
1. Be mindful of the invitations you accept.
It’s a great feeling to be invited to so many holiday parties, but be mindful of the invitations you accept. First of all, you don’t need to say yes to everything. It’s important to practice good self-care over the holidays and make time for your meetings and support groups. So, if there are things that you don’t want or need to do, it’s okay to say no.
Second, be smart about the events you choose to attend. If you know the ugly sweater party your friend invited you to will have flowing alcohol, it’s best to decline the invite. It’s much harder to say no when you’re surrounded by temptation. And remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. It’s never okay to put your recovery on the line to make someone else happy.
2. Have a backup plan – and know how to use it.
You can’t control what other people do, so there’s always a chance that a party can take a wrong turn. For example, if someone brings jello shots to a party you thought wouldn’t have alcohol, you may feel uncomfortable and want to leave. Having an exit strategy will allow you to handle this type of situation with confidence and control.
We also recommend practicing your backup plan so that you know what to say and do if you find yourself in a difficult situation. You should always be able to leave a party without having to hunt people down or explain why. To help with this, it’s best to drive yourself or have a dedicated friend or family member who plans on picking you up.
3. Have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand.
Even though most people won’t force you to drink something, it can get annoying when friends continue to ask if you’d like a drink. Rather than feeling uncomfortable, you can happily accept a drink – “Sure, I’d love a Coke! Thanks!” When you have something in your hands, it takes the pressure off. Most people don’t care what’s in the glass anyway!
4. Spend more time with your support network.
Surround yourself with the people who support your recovery. You’ll probably need them a little more this time of year, and they may need you, too. By spending time with sober friends and going to sober places, it’s easier to stay sober and be happy about it. If you put yourself with people who are drinking or expecting to go to parties, you could end up feeling resentful that you can’t do the same.
5. Attend your meetings.
AA meetings don’t stop over the holidays. In fact, your group may be hosting something fun for the holidays like a party or guest speaker. Continue going to your meetings, even when your schedule changes or gets busy. These meetings will keep you grounded over the holiday season. If you plan on traveling for the holidays, consider an online support group for the short term.
6. Make self-care a priority.
The best way to protect your recovery is by taking care of yourself. It’s difficult to make smart, healthy choices when you’re run down, isolated from others or living off sugar and caffeine. Relapse is a process, not a single event, and it often starts with a lack of self-care. So, this season, make a commitment to your health and wellness.
Here are some of the best ways to take care of yourself:
- Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals with lots of color
- Avoid eating high-fat, high-sugar foods
- Try to exercise every day for 20-30 minutes
- Spend time with people who support your recovery
- Leave time to do what you love
- Take time away from work or school
- Reduce stress with yoga, acupuncture, etc.
7. Create new traditions.
If you used to spend the holidays getting drunk, staying out late, indulging in sugary foods, etc., the holidays may feel unfamiliar to you. Instead of trying to find where you fit in, create new traditions that you can enjoy with family, friends, coworkers or people in your 12-step groups.
One of our favorite ideas is to volunteer over the holiday season. This is such a great way to get yourself out of the house and giving back to your community. It can do wonders for the soul, especially when you see that things could be worse. Most people walk away with a fresh perspective and a grateful heart after volunteering at Christmastime.
There are plenty of other traditions you can start as well:
- Attend a holiday event in your town, such as a lights display or parade
- Rent a cabin for the weekend and go skiing, sledding or snowboarding
- Book a sober cruise or vacation with your friends
- Go on a weekend wellness retreat to minimize distractions
- Go caroling in your neighborhood
- See a holiday play like the Nutcracker
- Pretend you’re a tourist and visit your nearest city – the holiday decorations will be beautiful!
The holidays are a time to be grateful for the blessings we have, as small as they may be. Think about how far you have come from the beginning of your journey. You do not want to use the holidays as your excuse to relapse. By following the tips above and staying connected to sober places, things and people, you can be successful in maintaining your sobriety over the holidays.
To start your recovery, contact Acceptance Recovery Center. We have programs that will help you transform your future!