There is a lot of support out there for people dedicated to recovery from drugs or alcohol, especially during the holidays. The added stresses of buying gifts, going to events and parties, and seeing relatives can amplify urges and undermine resolve that was recently solid and taken for granted.
There are many people and organizations that have put out guides to staying sober such as this. We urge all to whom this applies to consider these ideas very carefully and implement as many safeguards as possible beforehand.
Tips for Holiday Sobriety
1. If you are considering drinking or using, think about how you will feel tomorrow.
Relapse can happen in seconds, but the effects can be much longer-lasting. When that moment is gone, and you are now facing the next day, you are probably going to be riddled with regret. This may be coupled by another hangover, a comedown from using drugs, in addition to depression, anxiety, and negative emotions.
Everyone in recovery should know that sobriety takes place in the present. Saying yes to using substances places sobriety in the past and the potential future. There’s a lot to be said for the latter, but ask yourself if you really want to undermine your recovery by giving up even a single moment, hour, or day?
2. If necessary, admit to your family and friends that you don’t want to drink or use, and why this is the case.
If you have been through rehab, there’s a good chance a lot of people already know this. Still, the holidays are a special time, and many people have to face enablers and others who don’t understand why you can’t have just one drink, toke, or whatever. Sometimes you just have to be firm with people, especially those who you have gotten drunk or used with in the past.
3. Carry some other drink in your hand so you can readily turn down other drinks.
If you are already drinking something non-alcoholic, this can serve more than one purpose. If you are new to recovery, staying hydrated and having drinks that are sugary and taste good, such as soda, hot cocoa, or eggnog, can help you resist cravings. It’s a well-established fact that alcoholics in recovery frequently experience sugar cravings, and allowing yourself to indulge might be vital to staving off temptation.
Of note, this approach might not work as well if you are addicted to other substances, such as opioids, cocaine, or meth.
4. Call another sober person or sponsor or go to a meeting.
Many people in recovery find it beneficial to “bookend” holiday events with meetings or conversations with AA sponsors. Locating meeting places and times in advance can help you schedule and structure your day around group support rather than relying on family and friends alone.
If meetings are not an option, having another sober friend or sponsor on hand can also be helpful. If tempted to drink or use at a family gathering or other event, you can step away and call this person and solicit advice. In some cases, you might be able to take this person with you, and that can add further accountability and confidence to this day in recovery.
5. If this is your first holiday being clean or sober, consider making alternative plans if you feel certain situations could trigger you to drink or use.
In addition to going to meetings, there are other ways to structure your time away from people or places that may cause you stress. It’s okay to decline holiday plans this year if you feel it’s necessary. Instead, consider going out to dinner with someone else who will be sober, to a movie, volunteer at a shelter, or celebrate at home.
There is no wrong way to experience the holidays as long as you have the emotional support you need at hand and realize that you are not alone. Nearly every person who is in recovery from drugs or alcohol will have to go through this. And yes, that is millions of people.
6. Go about your day like any other when it comes to your recovery.
Regardless of whether it’s Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or New Year’s, it is critical that you continue to engage in the healthy, productive behaviors that have helped to keep you sober thus far. These may include exercise, meditation, daily affirmations, etc. You shouldn’t neglect self-care because this day might unfold a bit differently. If you let yourself break free from your routine, this may result in an unconscious signal to the addict in you and might trigger thoughts or feelings that can sabotage your efforts in some way.
7. No matter what happens, be committed to not drinking or using.
Ultimately, all the planning in the world, while helpful, can’t save you at any given moment. You have to do it for yourself. There are no excuses—it doesn’t matter if you are stressed out or upset for some reason, you know that relapse is the wrong decision. If you are telling yourself anything else, you are lying to yourself. And others might be lying to you, as well—don’t listen.
Sometimes, the best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is just to accept that you should not put yourself in a position of temptation. As noted, it’s okay to stay home or do something that doesn’t involve being around people who are using substances. But you do have to have emotional support.
But If You Do Relapse, What Next?
Unfortunately, relapse is often a part of recovery, and sometimes, in weak moments, the unthinkable can happen. If this does happen, steps need to be made immediately to rectify the situation.
Remember, not all relapses are created equal. If you quickly return to a recovery routine that includes leaning heavily on sponsors, meetings, or even going back to rehab, you can break the cycle and prevent yourself from hitting rock bottom again. One of the most unfortunate aspects of relapse is that those who succumb to them allow themselves to wallow in guilt and shame, and this is the last thing someone in this position should be doing.
Moreover, beating yourself up isn’t going to help you or anything else—it will only serve to encourage you to continue to drown your sorrows in drugs or alcohol. Instead of doing this, be gentle on your emotions while being firm in your resolve to fix the problem before it gets any worse and take steps immediately to do so.
Getting Help for Substance Abuse and Addiction
If you are concerned that you are going to struggle during your recovery over the holidays or need help for addiction, we urge you to contact us today! Recovery By The Sea offers all of our clients comprehensive programs to treat substance abuse and mental health that is tailored to each individual’s unique needs and goals.
Please do not suffer alone during this time by taking advantage of professional treatment and services! Addiction is a chronic, long-lasting disease, but it can be effectively treated and managed for life in many cases. Call us today if you are ready to take the first step on your journey to sobriety and wellness!