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We’re deep into the time of year when there’s a lot of social and holiday events involving business colleagues, friends and family. Our time is committed and spread thin, there’s a lot of expectations we put on ourselves and externally, from others who depend on us.

It can be a challenging period if you’re in early recovery, and even for those who have more sobriety time. It could be the first time you’re facing these types of gatherings sober. Being vigilant and having a plan for those times when stress and emotions are heightened is critical. Before you place yourself in these situations, think about what you can do to keep yourself safe and create some strategies:

1. Practice your recovery routine consistently

While it’s always important to do this, during this highly social season, maintaining your routine should be at the top of your list. Get lots of exercise, eat healthy foods and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. None of us function well when we don’t do those things, and for those in sobriety, it’s even more important. This busy time can wear all of us out, so take the time to take care of yourself.

2. Be selective about how you spend your time

It’s not necessary to attend every event to which you’re invited. If you’re finding it’s too hard to frequently be around people who are drinking, say no to some gatherings. And most importantly, if it is too hard and you’re concerned you may relapse, don’t go at all. Your sobriety is your top priority.

3. Safety in numbers

Another way to protect your sobriety is to bring a friend along who is either in recovery with you or supports you in your journey. If you begin to feel uncomfortable or feel the urge to drink, you’ve got someone you can talk to right there.

4. Vigilance

Always serve yourself and keep your glass filled. Don’t leave your drink unattended — someone could think you need a refill or a top-up, and you could unintentionally drink alcohol. If you feel like you might relapse, pray, take some deep breaths, phone your sponsor or a friend and leave the gathering as soon as possible, after making sure you’ve got some support in place.

5. Be grateful

Developing a deep sense of gratitude for all you have and how far you’ve come can alleviate stress and cravings. Show your gratitude by helping others — getting the focus off of yourself and onto someone else reaps huge benefits, for both of you.

6. Enjoy

The holidays are meant to be a time of spirituality and spending time with loved ones. Be easy on yourself and schedule some fun activities where alcohol isn’t served. Keep yourself busy, avoid isolation, and immerse yourself in the many activities available that you may have avoided while you were in your addiction.

It’s a wonderful time to reflect on the gifts of sobriety and to anticipate your future, and to step back and practice self-care.