For many individuals, the cultural celebrations of winter – like Christmas and Hanukkah – mean an exciting time with family members. If you’re in recovery, though, it could mean an onslaught of holiday triggers. Returning home for the first time sober is a reason for celebration, but anyone who’s faced addiction knows it’s also a battle. Fortunately, there are several ways to overcome temptation and avoid triggers.

Form a Plan for Sobriety Every Day

Sobriety isn’t something that just happens. It’s an active effort that requires planning and determination, and holiday triggers will present most people with their biggest hurdle yet. This is why it’s important that you start every day with a sobriety plan. Research has consistently shown that forming a plan improves a person’s odds of success.

Your plan should revolve around specifics of the day and how you’ll stay sober. This could mean hanging with a friend who supports your sobriety during the big party. It could also mean avoiding an uncle that minimizes your struggle. Returning home will always be difficult – especially when holiday triggers are around – so make sure you’re starting the day with a solid plan to stay on the wagon.

Keep Going to Meetings

If attending a mutual aid group is part of your recovery, it’s important that you keep attending these meetings. Even if you’re far away from home, there’s help available. There are over 115,000 Alcoholics Anonymous groups in the world, so you should be able to find a meeting fairly easy. This could prove to be one of the most effective tips for staying sober during the holidays.

Even though it may seem a little daunting to meet an entirely new group, keep in mind that everyone was the new person at some point. And considering how many individuals need to avoid holiday triggers while visiting family, it’s likely that you won’t be alone in this new environment. Everyone needs support to maintain their sobriety, and keeping up with your group meetings is a good way to do this.

Attend Sober Events

One of the biggest ways to avoid holiday triggers is to simply attend events where alcohol and drugs aren’t central. Individuals in recovery are often surprised at just how many things there are to enjoy without the assistance of mind-altering substances. It all comes down to finding the right events.

Keep in mind that 10 percent of American adults are in recovery. This means it’s very unlikely that you’ll be alone in seeking out these events. Attend a Christmas performance or make a plan to go see light shows. You can even volunteer to take any children relatives to fun youth events.

Having fun without alcohol and drugs is very possible. You just have to look deeper than the typical ‘celebration’ mindset.

Come Prepared for Holiday Triggers

Avoiding holiday triggers entirely would be ideal, but it’s a difficult feat to accomplish when you’re visiting loved ones. It’s very likely that you’ll encounter alcohol or drugs at some point during your trip, so being prepared is your best chance of maintaining sobriety.

Start by evaluating every scenario as either a high, medium or low-risk situation. If you’re just starting on your road to recovery, it’s best to avoid any high-risk events where holiday triggers are likely. If you’re further along in your journey, just make sure you stick to your plan.

When going to a high-risk event, make sure to take your vehicle so you can leave at your leisure. You could also bring your own drinks – such as sparkling water instead of champagne on New Year’s Eve – to help avoid old habits.

Avoid Stress as Much as Possible

Experts say that stress is the biggest holiday trigger that those in recovery will encounter. Unfortunately, many of us learned to use drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with this. It’s difficult to avoid all stressful situations – especially where large family gatherings are concerned – so taking a few moments to de-stress is imperative.

Everyone has their own way of pulling this off. For some, it may be as easy as heading to the bathroom for just a minute of decompression. Others may need to excuse themselves and do a bit of meditation upstairs away from the stressful scenario. Going for a jog is especially helpful because it takes you out of the situation and gives your body something else to do.

Individuals battling mental health issues could find this particularly hard due to the correlation of depression and substance abuse. If you’re in this situation, speak with your doctor and treatment center for additional help.

Start New Traditions

Many holiday traditions – from parties to visiting old friends – seem ripe for potential relapse. Fortunately, it’s possible to simply start new traditions. Consider the following activities as alternatives to the old way of doing things. You might find a way to avoid holiday triggers and impress everyone with your penchant for fun.

  • Volunteer at a local food bank.
  • Go on a hike with the family.
  • Grab some sleds and hit the hills.
  • Plan and host a cookie swap.
  • Go caroling around the neighborhood.
  • Attend school holiday productions.

Substituting a negative vice with a fun and healthy activity is a great way to avoid holiday triggers. By engaging in these types of events, you can avoid situations where alcohol and drugs are likely while also having a blast with family and friends.

Knock Out the Holiday Triggers

Facing holiday triggers when returning home might be the biggest test of your sobriety yet. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to stack the deck in your favor. By following these tips and remembering why you’re striving to remain sober, you can ensure that your gathering of family and friends is joyful for everyone. If you can overcome holiday triggers, there’s very little that can take your sobriety away.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to go through this alone. Contact Transformations Treatment Center today and we can help build a personalized plan to overcome addiction.