While the holiday season can bring cheer, it can also present challenges that make sobriety difficult. First, there’s the stress of a change in your routine: cooking, cleaning, and travel might become a much bigger part of your life. There’s also the hectic nature of the holiday season, plus, seeing certain friends or relatives can be triggers that test your willpower.
The stress and rush of the holidays can make it a little more challenging to resist the temptation to use. Here are 8 ways to ensure that you can cope without affecting your recovery:
1. Be Present and Positive
Holidays can be uncomfortable if you’re in recovery, especially if you have strained relationships with family. You may be tempted to avoid confrontation completely, but just remember: family and friends want to see you happy and healthy, and the holidays are the best time for mending fences and repairing relationships.
2. Find Support in Those Around You
Loneliness is a key force that drives many sober people to drink, and the holidays may be more lonely than at other times. If you don’t have family or friends to celebrate with, don’t hesitate to lean on your support group. The odds are good that you’re not the only one alone during the holidays and no one will understand how you’re feeling better than your peers in recovery.
3. Get in the Spirit… Without the Spirits
Just because the holidays are usually celebrated with alcoholic beverages doesn’t mean you have to join. If you need to request that certain holiday events be celebrated without alcohol, you shouldn’t feel bad. Your loved ones will understand that you just want to spend time with them, free of temptation.
If you can’t avoid events where drinking is front and center, sit down and consider skipping and making plans with a sober support group in your life instead.
4. Spread Holiday Cheer Whenever Possible
If the holidays make you feel bad for any reason, remember that you’re not alone. Whether due to stress, strained relationships, financial issues, or some other factor, many people admit that the holidays aren’t “the most wonderful time of the year” for them.
Instead, bring a little positivity into a bad situation, and volunteer at a local food bank or soup kitchen to make the holidays a little brighter for someone in need. Giving back to the community through service is one of the greatest things to do during the holiday season.
5. Manage Your Expectations
It’s easy to get sucked into the holidays as a storybook season. Social media and popular culture put high standards on the holidays, adding pressure to an already stressful season. Instead of building up part of the year making it likely to disappoint, remember that the holidays are a few months that are no different from the rest of the year.
6. Trim the Invites
As you approach the winter holidays, it’s likely that you’ll get invited to a lot of gatherings, possibly with people you haven’t seen in a while. When you plan your holiday schedule, give your social calendar some thought. Staying sober means making some tough decisions about who you see and which events you choose to attend. Frame every plan you make (or don’t make) as the answer to this question: Will this support my ability to stay sober? If the answer is no, maybe that event is one you should skip.
7. Visit Home for the Holidays
Focus on strengthening relationships with family and friends this holiday season. Consider starting new holiday traditions to represent the changes you’ve made in your life. This could be the push that your family needs to put the past behind them and start fresh. Also, when you’re reminded how wonderful it is to be with key people in your life rather than a slave to your addiction, it will be another step forward in your recovery.
8. Manage the Sights and Sounds
There are different things that can present as triggers for those that are in recovery. Triggers can be related to sounds, sights, and even things related to the holidays, which can make the season particularly hard to get through if you’re in recovery.
Rather than taking on the near-impossible task of hiding from the traditional holiday lights and music, try to find a support system. Family, friends, and comforting activities such as yoga or meditation can take the edge off the holidays without tempting you to relapse.
Don’t Let the Holidays Interrupt Your Recovery
Trying to stay sober during the stress and chaos of the holiday season may seem like an impossible task, but rest assured, you’re not alone. Use the recovery community to your advantage, and over time, the holidays can become a positive influence on your journey, rather than a time that represents temptation.
No matter where you are, or what you’re celebrating, just remember: although the holidays may only come once a year, recovery lasts a lifetime.