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7 Tips To Help Stay Sober During The Holidays

When you are recovering from an addiction, you know how important it is to avoid potential triggers. Unfortunately, during the holiday season, it seems like triggers are lurking around every corner.

High-stress levels? Check.

Eggnog, spiked punch, or drinks passed around by well-meaning friends and family members? Check.

People, that you only see a handful of times a year, many of whom may not know about your struggle? Check, check, and check.

You don’t want to have to tell the entire family about your addiction, especially if you’re concerned about how they’ll react, but you do want to stay sober throughout the busy holiday season–and you may not be able to do it on your own. Some of these tips can help you manage the holidays and stay sober.

Tip #1: Know How You’re Going to Leave

If things start to get out of control at a holiday party, whether everyone is drinking or you’re starting to feel uncomfortable and down, how are you going to get out of that setting? Whether you’re at a holiday gathering of friends or spending the day hanging out with the family, you need a way out a safe way to leave the gathering and avoid giving in to temptation. This may include:

  • Having a partner lined up who will leave with you if needed.
  • Knowing who to call for a ride if things get out of control.
  • Driving yourself, if possible, so that you can leave when it’s convenient for you.

Tip #2: Think About Potential Triggers Ahead of Time

If you love your family and friends, potential triggers might be the last thing on your mind–but it’s still important to consider them. On the other hand, you may not particularly enjoy spending time with friends and family during the holidays, which can significantly increase your urge to drink. Regardless of whether you’re looking forward to a warm, loving holiday season or you’re concerned that things might get awkward in a hurry, consider what triggers may hit long before you step into the event. This might include:

  • Everyone drinking around you, especially if you’re used to participating
  • Family arguments
  • Well-meaning but overbearing family members
  • Friends who, unaware of your addiction, may pressure you to drink

Think through what your triggers are, then put a plan in place for avoiding them as much as possible. For example, if you’re meeting coworkers at a restaurant, you might arrive ahead of time and place your own order for something non-alcoholic before the drink orders start pouring in. If you know Aunt Mary’s rant about your single status is going to push you to want to drink, enlist another family member to cut her off before it begins–or give yourself permission to leave if needed.

Tip #3: Have Holiday Plans

If you’re lonely during the holidays, especially if you’re sitting around the house alone and feeling sorry for yourself, it can be easy to slip back into old habits. Make sure that you have holiday plans that will keep you busy. Have a list of sober activities that you can participate in when you need to get out of the house. Go for a walk or a drive and look at the Christmas lights, go watch the kids sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall, or find something else that will help you pick up some holiday cheer that doesn’t come out of a bottle. It can also be helpful to have a list of things you’re looking forward to this holiday season, from that special dessert that your aunt only makes once a year to fun annual family games or family members that you don’t get to see the rest of the year.

Tip #4: Know Who to Call

If you’re starting to struggle with the urge to drink, you may need support from someone else who has been there. Contact another sober alcoholic and ask them to be on call for you. Sometimes, a quick text message or a few minutes on the phone can be all you need to get yourself back on the right track and help prevent a relapse. Other times, you may need to use your friend as an excuse to help bail you out of the situation. Having someone on call can also help provide higher levels of accountability, which will increase the odds that you’ll stay sober even if things don’t go according to plan.

Tip #5: Find Help Group Meetings

Are you using AA or another program to help you stay sober? If so, make sure that you’re attending meetings through the holidays. If you know a particular event is going to be more difficult than others, plan to attend a meeting either right before or right after the event to help provide you with the support you need to stay sober.

Tip #6: Start a New Tradition

It’s fascinating how many holiday traditions revolve around eating and drinking–and, as an alcoholic, many of your past traditions may have involved getting drunk. This year, consider starting new traditions! Do something fun with your family, volunteer at a local soup kitchen, or discover something else you can do that will keep you away from the alcohol and engaged in an activity that’s more appropriate for you.

Tip #7: Make Sobriety a Priority

During the holidays, many people give too much of themselves in an effort to make everyone around them happy. You want to make your family proud, let your friends know that you care about them, and prevent people from talking about your addiction. Unfortunately, those things are not your first priority right now. Your sobriety is! It’s more important than family events, more important than work events, and more important than someone else’s hurt feelings. Make a list of the reasons you plan to stay sober, then keep it where you can revisit it as needed during the holidays.

For many people, the holidays are the hardest time of year to stay sober–but you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re struggling with sobriety over the holiday season,¬†contact us¬†today to learn how we can help.