Ah, the holidays, ushering in the end of the year, setting the stage for new beginnings, and all too often, mixing a sometimes-volatile punch of emotions for many of us. While it’s a festive season, all of the downtime, holiday parties, family gatherings, social events, and longer nights can also be a struggle for those who have just embarked on their recovery journey. And while everyone’s personal path to recovery is unique, there are ways to enjoy the holidays while protecting your sobriety. Read on for a list of tips compiled by those who have faced their share of challenges and managed to stay the sober course.
You don’t always have to decline the invitation.
If there’s a party you really want to attend, by all means go. But set yourself up for sobriety success by determining in advance how long you’d like to stay and, if possible, by taking a sober friend (or sponsor) along for support and accountability.
Make a plan.
Before you attend a party where you know alcohol will be flowing, create an exit strategy (or first, ask yourself if you’ll be sharing quality time with others there). Know what time you’d like to bow out, as well as how you’re getting home (especially if you caught a ride with someone).
Keep a non-alcoholic drink in your hand.
Friends, family, and hosts are often less likely to ask what you’re drinking if they see you with a beverage in hand. In case you’re put on the spot with a direct question about why you’re abstaining from the adult refreshments, preplan your response. It’s OK to use everything from “I have to be up early tomorrow” to being honest, “I’m three months sober” depending on the company you’re in and where you are along the recovery journey.
Hold your support system close.
While it can be tempting to look at the holidays as a “pseudo-vacation,” sobriety works best as a 24/7/365 commitment. Continue to attend 12-Step support meetings, stay in touch with your sponsor, and have friends and family “on call” if you foresee tough times ahead.
Look for ways to help others.
One of the best ways to quit running circles in your own head is to search for things you can do for others. Want an organized activity? Consider volunteering at a community soup kitchen or assisting at a homeless shelter. Or if that’s a little daunting, just think of those you love and what they want/need. Do your elderly parents need help with yard work? Does a coworker have a growing to-do list of home maintenance items? When thinking of ideas, aim for “thoughtful” rather than “grandiose.”
Adopt an attitude of gratitude.
Today, there are an abundance of studies available that demonstrate proven benefits to being grateful for what you have. Looking for the good in life can help you sleep better, derive greater satisfaction from life, and reduce your risk of addiction. So skip the temptation to catalog things you wish were different and instead, be thankful for those blessings you do have.
Remember, at the end of the day, every 24 hours is at its essence just another day of recovery. Regardless of how each event unfolds, nothing that happens is worth jeopardizing the time and effort you’ve put into your sobriety.
Finally, put yourself (and your recovery) first.
Keep in mind that in order to be your best self and be available for those you love, you have to take care of yourself first. If you find that you’re feeling overwhelmed or the idea of making the obligatory appearance at a social function causes you to break out in a cold sweat, give yourself permission to opt out and enjoy a quiet evening at home. Because ongoing sobriety is the best gift you can give yourself … and those who care about you.