The holiday season can be a crazy time of the year, and staying sober and sane for the holidays can be a challenge. With all the heavy traffic, crowded malls with last-minute shoppers, travel delays, and just the stress of reuniting with family and friends can be enough to set off triggers for anyone in recovery.
This time of year shouldn’t be a bummer. Even with all the stress, you should be able to find time to relax and enjoy the holidays. Whether you’re in recovery or just trying to get through the holiday stress, you can still enjoy the holidays without losing your mind. So how do you reduce the likeliness of road rage, taking your anger out on an unintended target and avoid negative thoughts without relapsing? Below are 12 ways to help you stay sober and sane for the holidays:
1) Create a Sober Plan
You definitely want to keep in mind the people and places you’ll be visiting over the holidays. While it’s nice to reunite with friends and family, having a sober plan can help you stay calm and collected and avoid triggers. You can take this list with you, add to it, or come up with your own plan to avoid triggers that could stand in the way of your holiday fun. Simply having a plan, sticking to it and letting others know about your plan, can help you dodge the rabbit hole of relapse.
2) Attend Meetings
Attending meetings during the holidays is the best way to avoid getting stressed and hash out any anxiety you may have about being home for the holidays. It’s also a great way to catch up with others in recovery who may be having similar reactions to holiday stress. Several organizations are available and hold meetings. Check out Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence for local meetings going on in your area.
3) Remind Family & Friends
Not everyone’s in recovery. Sometimes you have to remind Uncle Joey and Aunt Dina that it’s not okay to offer you a drink or talk about drugs around the dinner table. Don’t ever feel like you’re being a pest by bringing it up. If you have to remind family and friends you’re in recovery and some topics are off the table, then give them a heads up. Even if an uncomfortable moment arises, don’t sweat it. Make it part of your plan to react with tact.
4) Do Other Activities
Most people think going out to the bars and drinking is a major part of celebrating the holidays, but it doesn’t have to be. You can still enjoy yourself sober by engaging in other activities with friends. Catch up at dinner, hit up a billiards spot, go to a concert, catch a movie, go see a comedy show, go to an entertainment complex or relax anywhere you’d be comfortable with company you enjoy.
5) Assess the Situation
Whether it’s a dinner party, house party or club party, make sure you know what to expect ahead of time. Ask around or check out the vibe and be sure you’re with people you can trust who respect that you’re in recovery. If the environment is getting a little too wild for you or you feel the stress coming on because people are getting crazy drunk or there’s uncomfortable conversations about drinking or drugging, you can check yourself out and leave the event early if you want to.
6) Give the Host a Heads Up
If you are attending a dinner party, it’s good to let the host know you’re in recovery. Ask ahead of time if there are any desserts, food items, or drinks that may include liquor so you can avoid the slightest trigger. Also, serve yourself if you have to so you can avoid any “accidental” triggers.
7) Plan Your Own Event
You could start your own party or be the party. Why not invite some trusted family members and friends who get that you’re in recovery and have a sober party. Call up some of your other friends you know in recovery and have your own party. Get a DJ or be the DJ and throw a dance party, do your thing, have a rap battle, play Cards Against Humanity, enjoy yourself, and laugh off the stress.
8) Create a Plan for Cravings
Cravings happen. It’s natural for anyone in recovery, but they don’t last long. If you do have a craving, you definitely want to make sure you have a way to distract you from it. This is where positive self-talk can be helpful or you can do a countdown in your head until the time passes. You may even want to spark up a conversation with someone, call someone on the phone like your sponsor, go to the gym or do an exercise to get your mind off it. Make sure it’s a plan that works well for you and that it’s easy to follow through with.
9) Take Care of Yourself
You definitely want to make sure you put your sobriety first. Remember the acronym H.A.L.T., you know, hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. If you find yourself in any of these four circumstances, take care of it quickly. Eat a balanced meal, walk away from stressful environments, gather with your support system, and get some much needed rest while traveling or once you’ve reached your destination.
10) Meditate. Meditate. Meditate
Prior to the rush and during the rush just take some time for yourself. Everyone meditates differently. You could chill out to some of your favorite tunes, step away for some alone time to reflect, visit a peaceful place around town, hit the gym, pray, do yoga or just simply sit in silence and take a break from all the noise and holiday chatter.
11) Exit Stage Left
If you know the reunions and parties can get out of hand, create your exit strategy. You might even show up early so you can leave a little early before the craziness begins. You don’t have to stay with family and friends for long. After all, they’ll be happy you showed up and they got to see you at your best; clean, happy and living a sober lifestyle.
12) Relax and Keep it Real
Just because you made positive changes in your life doesn’t mean everyone has. You may feel like the holidays are the perfect time to smooth things over or resolve some ongoing conflicts you had when you were in active addiction. Resist the urge. Remember that not everyone is on the same journey as you and although you may be in a different place in your life, having no expectations is the best way to protect yourself from getting triggered if things don’t go as planned.
Whether you’re traveling or not, it’s our hope you stay clean and sober during the holidays and stick to your sober plan. Transformations Treatment Center is a nationally accredited drug rehabilitation facility. If you find yourself having a hard time over the holidays, our admissions team is always here to help answer any questions you may have. If you or a loved one needs help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 800-270-4315.