How Do I Stay Sober During The Holidays?

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The holiday season is filled with parties, stress, family drama, and potential isolation. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, there are plenty of things that could cause relapse if a person in recovery isn’t careful. How can you have a safe holiday without endangering your sobriety?

Dealing With Holiday Stress

A major cause of relapse is stress. The holiday season is filled with stressful situations, whether or not this time of year brings you joy. Whether you’re stressed about family coming over or buying the perfect gift, it’s important to learn how to manage your stress levels during the holidays.

A great way to combat stress is to stay grounded. Finding stability from breathwork or taking time out of your day to focus on yourself can allow you to destress instead of letting it build up. This time of year becomes busy whether you work in customer service, tourism, or are planning a family get-together. Taking time out of your day to be mindful of your stress level can help you catch yourself before it spirals out of control.

Is It Safe to Attend That Holiday Party?

Whether or not you choose to attend a holiday party might depend on how far along you are in your recovery and how well you’ve developed your coping skills. If you are still in early recovery, it might be best to sit this party out. Instead, you might want to consider organizing a small get-together with some close friends or finding a group of people who are also sober, just like you.

If you decide to attend a party, check with the host to see if there are other drink options, such as soda or sparkling water. Plan to answer questions about your choice not to drink, as others might take notice, but remember you’re not required to answer any questions about your sobriety if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.

Ways to Celebrate Sober

If you want to find other alternatives to celebrating the holidays that don’t include alcohol, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this time of year. One option is donating your time to a charity. Many people volunteer during the holidays by hosting holiday toy drives or volunteering at soup kitchens. Search for planned events in your local area. Some events might be virtual due to Covid-19 precautions, so be sure to check in with your local charity.

There is also no shame in spending this holiday with close friends and family. There’s nothing like baking homemade chocolate chip cookies or enjoying a warm cup of hot cocoa by the fire (or a virtual yule log video). This time of year is also great for going on nature walks. The ground might be covered in snow, but getting some fresh air while the sun is out is still fantastic for your health.

If the holidays hold religious significance to you, this might be the time to focus more on your spiritual connectedness instead of partying. There are plenty of holidays occurring around this time for many different religions.

Don’t Spend It Alone

For some, the holidays can affect their mental health, especially if they don’t have many friends and family to celebrate with or don’t associate the holidays with positive memories. The holidays can also remind us of lost loved ones, which can become a source of repeated grief. Additionally, this time of year can cause people to isolate themselves because of the shorter days and dropping temperatures.

Isolation can also cause relapse. A person alone is more likely to revert to their old ways when they aren’t around their support system. Try to reach out to friends, family, sponsors, and healthcare providers more often than you usually would during this time of year. The extra connection can help offset feeling stuck inside during the colder months.

Staying Merry And Bright After the Holidays

Once the celebrations end, many might become more aware of just how cold and dark it has gotten.  During this time of year, it’s essential to focus on your mental health and the self-care that can improve it. The holidays can work as a distraction for some from the brutal winter ahead, but it’s common for people to feel a dip in their mental health once the family begins to reach out less and things return to “normal.”

Focus on physical self-care, such as getting enough exercise, eating well, and getting enough sun. Make sure that even though the weather is colder, you are still staying hydrated. Continue reaching out to friends and family to stay connected. Talk to a therapist or counselor about coping with the colder weather.

While many might find joy in the holidays, others might find this time potential for stress and temptation. Fighting the urge to relapse can become an enormous struggle if you are not prepared. However, it isn’t impossible to enjoy the holidays sober as they can still be enjoyable. Before family comes over and holiday parties start, take time to think about your plans this holiday season. Reach out to your support system and discuss your holiday plans—set boundaries for people and things that might cause unnecessary stress in the days to come. The holidays shouldn’t be stress-filled, but instead, they should be a time to reflect on everything great going on in your life.

Jaywalker of Carbondale offers counseling services and support groups for those seeking treatment. If you’re interested in learning about our programs or how we plan to celebrate a sober holiday, please call us today at (866) 529-9255

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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