The holidays are a time to visit family and friends, host parties, and reflect on the past year. But for someone in early recovery, this time of heartfelt reunions and joy can be challenging and stressful. It’s important to know that you’re not alone in this journey, and there are ways to help you stay sober during the holiday season.

Understanding the Challenge

Holidays often include parties and gatherings where alcohol is served. These temptations can make it tough for people in recovery to stay on track. Fortunately, there are things you can do to stay strong and avoid falling back into old habits.

1. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is a big help. You can create a plan for each event you’ll attend during the holidays. Think about the things that might make you want to drink, and come up with a way to deal with those situations.

  • Have an exit plan: If you ever want to leave an event, it’s a good idea to plan how. You can drive yourself to the event to leave whenever you want or have a trusted friend help you get home.
  • Bring a supportive friend: Having a friend who knows about your recovery can greatly help. They can support you and make it easier to avoid any tempting situations.
  • Talk to your friends and family: Let the people close to you know you’re working on staying sober during the holidays. They can be more understanding and help you stay strong.

2. Choose the Right Events

You don’t have to go to every single holiday party. It’s okay to pick the ones that are less focused on alcohol and where you feel more comfortable.

3. Learn to Say No

Saying “no” to alcohol can be tough, but it’s important to prepare for any scenario. Have some responses ready if someone offers you a drink. You can say, “No, thank you, I’m not drinking tonight,” or “I’m the designated driver, so I can’t.” Being prepared can make it easier to say no.

4. Bring Non-Alcoholic Drinks

If you bring your own drinks to a party, you’ll always have something to sip on, and it can help you avoid the pressure to drink alcohol.

5. Stay Connected with Your Support System

During the holiday season, it’s important to stay in touch with the people who support your recovery. This could be your sponsor, therapist, or support group.

  • Go to your meetings: Keep attending your recovery meetings, like AA and NA, even during the holidays. Being around people who understand what you’re going through can be very comforting.
  • Talk to your sponsor: Your sponsor can be a great source of advice and support. Don’t hesitate to contact them if you are ever unsure of things.
  • Use online resources: If you can’t attend in-person meetings, you can find support online. Many groups and therapists offer help on the internet.

6. Take Care of Yourself

Holidays can be stressful, and stress can make it harder to stay sober. It’s important to take care of yourself during this time.

  • Try meditation and deep breathing: These relaxation techniques can help you stay calm and focused.
  • Stay active: Doing exercise, like running or practicing yoga, can help you deal with stress.
  • Get enough sleep: Sleep is crucial for managing stress and avoiding cravings.
  • Eat healthy: Eating well can help your mood and overall well-being.

7. Create New Traditions

If your old holiday traditions were connected to drinking, it’s a good idea to create new ones that don’t involve alcohol.

  • Volunteer: Helping others during the holidays can give you a sense of purpose and happiness.
  • Host alcohol-free gatherings: If you’re hosting a party, make it a no-alcohol event. Encourage your guests to bring non-alcoholic drinks and plan fun activities.
  • Explore new hobbies: Trying out new interests can keep you occupied and take your mind off cravings.

8. Look at How Far You’ve Come

Take a moment during the holiday season to think about your progress. Think about the positive changes you’ve made and what you’ve achieved in your recovery.

  • Keep a gratitude journal: Write down the things you’re thankful for, like the support of your loved ones or the ways you’ve grown. A journal can remind you why staying sober is important to you.
  • Think about your future: Imagine the life you want to have in recovery. Keeping a goal in mind can motivate you to stay on track.

9. Be Aware of Tough Situations

Some situations during the holidays can be more likely to make you want to drink. It’s important to be aware of these and have a plan to deal with them.

  • Feeling alone: If you start feeling lonely, reach out to your support system or attend a meeting.
  • Family tension: Family gatherings can sometimes be stressful. Make a plan for handling these situations, and be ready to step away if things get tough.
  • Grief and loss: The holidays can bring up sad feelings about people you’ve lost. Talk to a therapist or a support group if you struggle with these emotions.

10. Focus on the Big Picture

Remember, staying sober during the holidays isn’t just about saying no to alcohol. It’s about taking care of your long-term recovery and well-being. The holidays are a short period, but your recovery is worth protecting.

Staying sober during the holidays can be challenging, but with the right strategies and support, you can do it. Plan, choose events wisely, and be ready to say no to alcohol. Stay connected with your support system, take care of yourself, and create new traditions. Think about your progress and focus on your long-term recovery and well-being. With these tips and a strong commitment to your sobriety, you can have a happy and healthy holiday season. Your recovery journey is worth it.