The holidays are a joyous time that can also be extremely stressful. Between numerous commitments, high expectations, travelling and busy schedules, it can feel like you’re navigating through a minefield. Especially for those early in recovery, it can be a difficult season to get through because of the heightened emotions, stress and new terrain. Staying sober and avoiding relapse amidst this celebratory yet high-risk season simply requires preparation.
Remember that the greatest gift you can give yourself, your family and your friends is your sobriety. Celebrate it with those you love and fear not. Here are some helpful tips to help you remain sober through the holidays:
Plan Fun Activities Other Than Just Sitting Around
For many families, holiday gatherings amount to just sitting around and drinking. Break from tradition in a wonderful way and start a new customary holiday activity by investigating fun family options. Get outside - go skating or sledding or snowshoeing if it’s available. Go out and see a movie, it’s pre-Oscar season and it’s the time when movie-maker’s premier some pretty great flicks. If the weather has you shut inside, think about activities that will keep everyone busy and focused like board games, watching a classic or baking and decorating some yummy holiday treats.
Bring a Friend
The holidays include party invites to events where alcohol will be served. You don’t need to become a hermit because you’re newly sober. If you feel vulnerable about attending an event, bring a friend who is supportive of your recovery. Whether it’s your sponsor or someone also in recovery or a trusted companion. Having a plus-one is a great way to feel and be encouraged throughout the evening. Also, don’t forget to plan ahead so that when you want to leave, you can and are not dependant on someone else. Drive yourself to the gathering or agree with your buddy what time you’re going to leave and commit to it.
Serve Yourself at Parties
When you are at social gatherings, be proactive and grab your own beverage. Having a refreshment in hand will prevent people from constantly offering you a drink. In addition, by taking charge of serving yourself and keeping an eye on what is being poured in your cup, you won’t mistakenly consume a beverage with liquor in it. Throughout the evening, be sure you’re aware of your cup and its contents. If you have to put a drink down while you run to the bathroom, just a get new drink when you return. Don’t take the chance of someone accidentally switching your drink for theirs, good naturedly topping off yours or worse case, slipping alcohol or drugs into it.
Maintain Your Recovery Routine
Don’t forget to take care of yourself during this high-paced season. Rest, get exercise, eat well. The better you feel physically, the stronger you will be emotionally. Running around, picking up gifts, attending family gatherings and holiday parties can be taxing on the mind, body and spirit. Remember that your recovery is your responsibility and it’s up to you to take care of yourself. Give yourself the time to breathe and collect your thoughts during this season to keep stress at a minimum. The spirit of the season is meant to be a spiritual time and reconnecting with your higher power – whatever that is for you – is fitting and important. Regardless of how busy things may get, taking the time to reflect and relax is essential for maintaining your sanity and sobriety.
Plan a Celebration with Your Recovery Crew
If you still don’t feel comfortable or secure in your sobriety when in the company of people who are drinking or using – throw a bash yourself and celebrate your sobriety and the holidays with those who “get it”. Those who have gone through recovery will welcome the opportunity to enjoy the holidays with their peers and you as a host will be focused on party preparations. There is no need to expose yourself to unnecessary temptations especially where alcohol is the centre of entertainment. Start new traditions with your 12-step group or your rehab friends, celebrate great food, company, conversation and recovery together. Sobriety is a reason to celebrate at all times of the year.
Focus on Others
There are many people in your community that are less fortunate than you and the holiday season offers a wonderful opportunity for you to help others and bring joy into their lives. Volunteering at a charitable organization, like a homeless shelter or a food bank during this season, reinforces the importance of gratitude and remembering all that you do have to be thankful for. Particularly your recovery. By keeping yourself busy, you avoid isolation and in seeing others benefit from your assistance, you in turn benefit from the happiness you bring them. Joy is contagious.
Tell People You Are in Recovery
Given that the holidays are spent with friends and family, disclosing your recovery efforts – if you are comfortable with such – lets those who love you support your sobriety. Those who are truly supportive of your recovery will be happy to help you throughout the holidays, whether that’s by giving you an ear when you need to vent, going for a walk with you when the conversation gets uncomfortable or respecting that you can’t attend an event. By letting people know that you are in recovery, you also minimize the possibility that they’ll offer you those things that no longer serve you. And, for those that are contemplating sobriety, your bravery in disclosing your own recovery may just be the very thing that inspires them to enter addiction treatment.