‘Tis the season for gatherings with family and friends, office holiday parties, shopping, and for some; a break in routine with a few days off over the holidays.
While all of these things can certainly have positive qualities, there’s no denying that the ‘holiday blues’ can result as increased feelings of stress, loneliness, and frustration can occur this time of year.
Whether you are newly sober, or are years into your recovery, the holidays can be a very challenging time of year.
Although it’s wise to acknowledge that the risk for relapse tends to rise over the holiday season, it certainly doesn’t mean it has to be at odds with your recovery!
Here are some of our best tips to help keep sobriety intact over the holidays:
Have a Plan
If you’re reading this now, chances are you’re already off to a great start! Create a strong beginning by “getting the gears turning: anticipate potential situations that could arise and brainstorm their solutions.
Like most things in life, managing sobriety over the holiday season tends to go smoother when a plan is in place.
As you likely know, protecting your sobriety often means “avoiding slippery places” – by zeroing in on who, what, or where could trigger a chance of relapse, and avoiding those situations at all costs.
For the holiday events and occasions you will attend (and it’s suggested we be selective about these) we suggest the BYOC (Bring Your Own Car) strategy, or making sure you have an escape plan if you need to leave early. On that note, going early to an event – and leaving early – is typically a good idea, as substance use tends to increase as the night unfolds.
In the case you’ll need to turn down a drink or substance, it can be helpful to have a few lines ready to say. Remember that while it feels strange and awkward, the normies/muggles don’t really even think about what you are or are not drinking.
Surround Yourself With Support
One of the best suggestions for maintaining sobriety over the holiday season is to avoid isolation by surrounding yourself with your support system. It can be tempting to cut everyone off when we’re feeling stressed, sad, or scared, but it’s so helpful to have a support system at the ready in case you need to talk something out. Even knowing your support crew is there for you can help build resilience to the season’s stressors.
If you’re headed out to a holiday event, we suggest letting your support system know beforehand – that way, they’ll keep their eyes and ears on their phones, in case you’re trying to reach them! If you’re travelling or visiting a family member or friend’s house, it can be useful to have the nearest meeting times and locations at your disposal, and ensuring you have the phone number of your sponsor or a sober friend at the ready.
And if you’re in the position to be a sober-buddy or if you sponsor someone else, you can always offer your support this way too.
Keep Up The Healthy Habits
Self-care is vital to staying sober over the holiday season. When we nurture our bodies with healthy foods, get enough sleep, and ensure we stay hydrated, it’s much easier to make positive decisions that are aligned with our greater goals.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to keep up our healthy eating habits (and staying mindful of how we handle indulgences) and to stay active. To avoid the physical and emotional discomfort that can arise with over-eating, perhaps choose 2-3 indulgences you’ll savour over the season, and respectfully decline the others. A brisk walk around the neighbourhood after dinner, or even organizing a family skate, can be great for boosting endorphins and keeping your health in check.
Taking a few quiet moments every day to cultivate a gratitude practice can reap tremendous rewards and can help us stay in a positive frame of mind.
Embrace New Traditions
It might be the perfect time to redefine what the holidays mean to you, and how you’ll choose to celebrate them. Instead of placing the focus on what has changed or what has been lost this year, perhaps focus on creating new things you’ll do this time of year – from volunteering your time, trying out a new recipe, or decorating your living space to feel cozy and comforting.
Although things might look different every year, the spirit of the season remains the same – and that’s giving back, with love. If you have the time, you could volunteer at your local food bank, or offer to help out in a more engaged way in your regular 12-step meeting.
If your smile is all you’ve got this season, why not give it to someone in need?
Remind Yourself Why Sobriety is Worth It
Sometimes, staying sober is about reconnecting with why you started. The holiday season is an awesome time to fully engage with your recovery program (if you’re not already) and to remind yourself why it is important to you – you may even choose to dive into the next part of your program with your sponsor, or to brush up on some literature you haven’t picked up in awhile! Keeping our “eyes on the prize” makes it easier to make decisions we can feel good about.
Remember, “This too, shall pass”
One of the best things about the holiday season (aside from cherry chocolate cookies and eggnog) is that it’s only temporary.
Although it can feel trying to wade through this period of time that often brings emotional highs and lows, the good thing is that by the end of the first week of January, it will be all over!
And with a plan, a happy, sober holiday season is certainly possible.
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Do you have any tips on how to stay sober over the holidays?
Please feel free to leave your comments below, or you can always send us an email as well: email@example.com.