how to stay sober during the holidays

It’s that time of year again. Despite the year 2020 being wildly different than most of us have experienced in the past, this time of year will undoubtly test addictive behavior. In order to help you stay sober during the holidays, we thought it might be helpful to share a few ideas.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at how to stay sober during the holidays.

How to Stay Sober During the Holidays

For those who have been successfully walking the line of sobriety up to this point, the holiday season can bring a pause. While traditions can be reassuring and provide a sense of emotional warmth, they can also be a trigger for reliving some old trauma and reactivating dormant behavioral responses. You can avoid sabotaging your recovery progress during the holiday season by being proactive in your approach.

Here’se how to stay sober during the holidays.

Develop a Plan

Having a plan for maintaining sobriety is always critical, and especially during the holidays. There is a good chance that you are already able to anticipate what your typical holiday season consists of, and are thus able to analyze the good and bad of it. As a person in recovery, you want to be sure to minimize the bad experiences, while maximizing the healthy ones. Is there a certain family gathering that always goes south? Is there a friend group that enjoys pressuring everyone to get wasted? Can you think of ways to successfully get into, and then out of, these types of scenarios? If not, your holiday game plan might need to involving staying away.

Know Your Limits

Whether it be in regard to how much alcohol you can be around before being tempted to take a sip, or how much negativity you can take from your relative before becoming upset, it is always prudent to go into a situation knowing your limits. Make sure your holiday plans include a list of known triggers for stress and relapse and devise a plan for making your exit before you reach your limit of what you can successfully endure. Having solid, healthy, social boundaries in place is a coping skill that will serve you in many areas of life, and especially when it comes to maintaining your sobriety.

Share Your Intentions

The best game plans often involve using preemptive strategies. If it is your intention to stay sober during the holidays – which is presumably is for those reading this article – share that resolves with those you will be interacting with. It can be intimidating, at first, to openly express that you are in recovery. With practice, however, letting others know that you are actively working toward self-improvement can become a very liberating habit. While there will always be some types of people who will attempt to give you a hard time for being sober, true friends and loving family will respect your resolve to be your best self. Those who support you will know to refrain from inviting you for a nightcap.

Start New Traditions

This strategy applies every year, but, with the 2020 holidays being a year of pandemic restrictions on gatherings, this season can be the perfect time to put some new traditions in place for yourself and your loved ones. While the holiday norm typically involves extended family members all gathering together – whether they get along or not – many people are making the decision to take a break from these long-standing habits.

Not only do these large gatherings tend to be expensive, but they can also involve a high level of stress. Stress is a trigger for many people who are in the process of recovery, and reducing stress is a common goal. If the family gatherings typically involve free-flowing alcohol or other substances, attending them can be even more of a risk to sobriety. Devise a plan for creating a holiday tradition that involves genuine care for yourself, and for your family. Some ideas include selecting a special day for spending time with individual family members, scheduling a family video chat, and orchestrating a Secret Santa
tradition in lieu of family gift exchanges.

Invite A Recovery Friend

If avoiding holiday parties isn’t your thing, enlist the company of a sober support buddy. One of the important aspects of most recovery models is that of social support and accountability. It is much easier to maintain resolve when we have someone in our corner, and bringing a friend who understands the challenges associated with staying sober will provide a welcome refuge if stress and temptation levels start running high. You will want to make sure that this friend is very secure in his or her own recovery, of course.

Bring Your Own Beverages

It is no fun to drink alone, and it can be even less fun to be the only person at the gathering who keeps asking for a glass of water. If your holiday gatherings typically involve friends and family members who stock a wet bar, come prepared with your own beverages for the ice box. Companies have taken note of the growing trend of celebrating sober, and have created a myriad of beverages meant to satisfy the taste buds without impairing judgment. Some of your family members may even unknowingly benefit from grabbing one of your non-alcoholic drinks from the cooler as the night wears on.

Bring Your Own Entertainment

As rewarding as just sitting and chatting around with loved ones can be, idle time can also be fertile ground for trouble. With many families, it is likely only a matter of time before someone brings up an uncomfortable topic, starts an argument, or insists that everyone celebrate with a drink. Instead of putting yourself at risk of these types of inevitable occurrences, be proactive in arranging activities to engage in. Everyone may not decide to join in with the board game or the outdoor sport, but those who do participate will have a safe zone when the drama starts.

Craft A Toolkit

If you do decide to spend the holidays around folks who inevitably decide to bring the holiday drama, make sure you have an arsenal of recovery tools at your disposal. Bring along your recovery-oriented reading material. Pack your yoga mat and herbal teas. Use the internet to find local support group meetings, and have a list of sober friends that you can contact if you need some emergency support. Excuse yourself to take a walk, or spend some time in the bathroom using your
recovery apps on your smartphone.