The journey to staying sober is a difficult one, but those in recovery face particularly tough times during the holidays. Whether it’s stress or simply being around old friends who haven’t changed, there are countless pitfalls on the road to sobriety. Fortunately, there are several proven methods to help avoid these pitfalls. If you take the following tips to heart, you can have a fun and sober holiday season.
1. Don’t Go It Alone
Around 22 million Americans suffer from some form of addition. Of those who seek treatment, many will fail because they attempt to fight this monster on their own. This can be especially detrimental if your goal is staying sober during the holidays.
The holidays will invariably present an opportunity to fall off the wagon, and this is why you should have a sober buddy accompany you in certain situations. This should be a friend or family member who understands what you’re going through and wants to help.
Staying sober doesn’t mean you have to miss out on holiday parties. You simply need to be prepared for them.
2. Have an Escape Plan
No matter how far along someone is in their recovery, there will be moments when they feel the urge. The risk of this happening is especially high during certain holiday events, so you should have an escape plan prepared in these situations. It could literally mean the difference between sobriety and relapse.
Consider the following options:
- Leave the event and go out for a walk.
- Go see a movie to preoccupy your mind.
- Head to your hotel and call your sponsor.
- Find a 12-step program nearby and attend.
Of course, your escape plan will mean little if you can’t get away. This is why you should always have your car or a rental when attending events. You need to be able to break away when you feel it’s necessary.
3. Have an ‘Elevator Speech’ Prepared
An elevator pitch is a prepared speech that’s both persuasive and succinct. The term is typically used in business situations, but it’s also a good strategy for staying sober during the holidays. If you’re offered alcohol/drugs or certain questions come up, you should already have a response prepared in your head.
Keep in mind that this elevator speech doesn’t need to be the same for everyone. You don’t have to confide in someone if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. You simply need to know what you’re going to say – even if it requires remembering multiple responses – if certain situations arise.
Consider the following:
- No thank you. I don’t drink.
- No thank you. I’m not drinking tonight.
- Thanks, but I’m taking medications that don’t mix well.
- I’m driving tonight, but thanks.
These are all great options if you don’t feel like divulging your personal story.
4. Bring Your Own Drinks
If you’re battling alcohol addiction or your drinking triggers other behaviors, bringing your own beverage is a great method for staying sober. After all, throwing back a glass of sparkling water when the ball drops – instead of champagne – will look just as fancy.
Try to avoid non-alcoholic beer since it can serve as a catalyst for heavier drinks. It’s also very important to not fall into the “It’ll be my New Year’s resolution” trap. New Year’s resolutions often fail, and you’re already on the path you should be on.
Don’t succumb to temptation – because “I’ll just drink for one night” is typically the beginning of a long relapse.
5. Go to Meetings
Winter cultural celebrations often serve as a much-needed vacation. It’s important to remember, though, that there’s no vacation from staying sober. Living active recovery is an essential aspect of maintaining sobriety, so if group meetings are part of your overall plan, don’t slack off.
Since you may be traveling this holiday season, make sure to find meeting locations in advance. You can find Alcoholics Anonymous groups here and Narcotics Anonymous groups here. Make sure you’re giving yourself all the tools for success.
6. Plan/Attend Sober Events
Staying sober during the holidays is made much simpler when alcohol isn’t the focus of an event. Consider making the following experiences part of your traditions:
- Go sledding with the family.
- Attend local high school holiday productions.
- Attend or create a cookie/cake swap.
- Head out for a bit of Christmas caroling.
- Gather up family members for a holiday hike.
- Go for a drive to see Christmas lights.
We far too often get into the idea that celebrating entails drugs or alcohol. It turns out that this belief is just the easy way out. There are plenty of exciting things to enjoy if you look.
7. Rethink Your Obligations
One of the biggest hurdles for staying sober during the holidays is thinking we’re obligated to do something. Around 65 percent of companies, for instance, will host a Christmas party. You may feel obligated to go, but the simple fact is that you don’t have to risk your recovery for anyone.
Is there a particular uncle who manages to trigger your substance use at every holiday dinner? You can skip that as well. Make up an excuse for your boss or party host, or just tell them the truth. Either way, accepting that your sobriety is more important than meaningless social cues is imperative.
8. Stay Active
In addition to giving your mind something else to focus on, exercise is showing early promise in helping combat addiction. The winter holidays might be an excuse to eat too much, but don’t use them as an excuse to not stay active. Consider the following exercises you can do anywhere:
- Jumping jacks
Exercise is a great method for staying sober. You can also garner a few additional ideas from Health Magazine.
9. Staying Sober by Giving Back
One of the best methods for staying sober during the holidays – and most in line with the season – is volunteering to help others. In addition to getting outside of your own head, this can enhance your self-esteem and improve well-being.
Consider the following activities:
- Host a canned food or toy drive collection.
- Serve meals at a local soup kitchen.
- Gather supplies for the homeless and hand them out.
- Assist Habitat for Humanity in building homes.
- Contact the local animal shelter to see if they need help.
By helping others during the holiday season, you can also help yourself. Try to get the whole family involved and make it a new tradition!
10. Limit Time Around Triggers
One of your biggest hurdles will be avoiding holiday triggers. You should gauge every activity you’ll participate in by whether it’s a high or low risk situation. If others drinking at a party could be a trigger, for instance, you may want to bypass it altogether.
Of course, you don’t have to avoid triggers completely if you’re far enough along in recovery. You should simply have your escape plan ready when participating. The longer we spend around the trigger, the more likely we are to fall off the wagon. Decide your schedule based on this reality.
Staying Sober is an Attainable Goal
Countless Americans have battled addiction and emerged a better person after the struggle. You’re not alone in this experience, and this holiday season will find many others fighting for their sobriety. Staying sober during the holidays doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. You simply need to keep these strategies in mind, and you can overcome any temptation that comes your way.
Staying sober is a constant process. Contact us at Transformations Treatment Center today and we’ll help guide you along this important journey.