The holidays can be a joyful yet stressful time, especially for those in recovery. Though family parties and office gatherings are enjoyable, they can also be full of triggers and negative influences, making staying sober a challenge.
Whether you are in recovery or are looking to remain sober during the holiday period, we are sharing four tips for staying safe and sober during the holidays with you here.
1 – Make Plans
Planning your days and events can be very handy in your quest to stay sober over the holidays. This is because knowing where you’re going, what you’re doing, and who you are spending time with can help you avoid specific triggers.
If you are in recovery, you can plan new traditions and activities around the festive period that will enable you to avoid drugs and alcohol. Try a new board game or head out to the theatre – the options are endless! You can also ensure you aren’t around people or places that could trigger you.
A plan can also help you avoid feeling hungry, angry, lonely, and tired (HALT). These feelings can increase cravings for drugs or alcohol. For this very reason, structure and routine are essential when it comes to keeping them at bay.
In addition, you could develop a plan of action in case anyone asks you why you’re not drinking. By having answers and reactions ready, you’ll find that you are prepared to avoid substances in confidence.
Although you will likely want to enjoy yourself over the holidays and make the most of your time with your family and friends, events and gatherings can be somewhat overwhelming. In the instance that you find yourself under pressure, stressed, or at risk of relapse, find a trusted friend or family member to take you home, or make sure that you can call a taxi.
2 – Recognise Your Triggers
Recognising your triggers is a vital part of staying sober over the holiday period. If you have completed addiction treatment, it is possible that you already understand your triggers. You may have even developed coping strategies to help you if you feel that relapse is imminent.
Irrespective of whether you have completed treatment or not, sitting down with a therapist and identifying the specific triggers that prompt you to want a drink or start using substances again will be beneficial. It’s also worth asking yourself the following questions:
- Do you feel triggered when you’re stressed?
- Are you more tempted to use substances when you’re feeling anxious or depressed?
- Will you feel triggered in social settings?
By recognising your triggers, you can avoid them. You can also learn some tools and skills to manage them. For instance, if you want to drink during stressful times, try planning your social activities in advance to limit this stress. Finding different ways to channel stress or negative feelings will also assist you.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your triggers with those close to you. By sharing the particular scenarios that may trigger you, your loved ones will be able to help you better.
3 – Get Comfortable With the Word No
The word no is one of the most important words to add to your arsenal during the holiday period. Say no to whatever you need to – that family party filled with people you don’t want to see, or that awkward office dinner with a pushy coworker insisting on you having ‘just one drink’.
Keeping a non-alcoholic drink in your hand can help divert people from offering you a drink. Even if they do, you have a prop you can gesture to as you turn them down without the need for an explanation.
We understand that it can be hard to say no. In some instances, doing so may leave you feeling left out and lonely. If you don’t want to miss out on fun events but find yourself worried about the presence of alcohol or other substances, ask another sober friend to join you for support. Remember, a good friend or family member will help you walk away if the temptation gets too much.
4 – Surround Yourself With Support
Your friends, family members, and peers will all be rooting for you throughout the holiday season. If some of your friends and family members aren’t supportive of your sobriety, make sure to reach out to those who are.
It may also be beneficial to attend twelve-step, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings over the holiday period. Doing so will enable you to take advantage of additional support and talk to those who know exactly what you are going through.
You can also support yourself by focusing on self-care and monitoring your overall health. Eat healthy food, get enough sleep, and try to exercise a few days a week to keep your body and mind healthy – but make sure to fit a few mince pies in there too.
Although the holidays might be a challenging time for those staying sober, it isn’t impossible. With appropriate support and measures in place, you’ll have an enjoyable, sober holiday period.