Addiction And The Holidays

Addiction And The Holidays

Recovery from alcoholism can be exceedingly difficult, and an unexpected event can trigger a relapse.  Especially during the holidays, recovery can be difficult with addiction and the holidays. This is because often holiday parties and family stress go hand in hand. If you are sober and getting stressed with holidays steadily approaching, there are great ways to plan ahead for the holidays.

In some families drinking is considered normal and if you do not drink you are considered the “black sheep.” For anyone who is sober, this can be a huge concern. One method to avoid drinking with a family who pushes you to do so is to state that you are doing the sober holiday challenge.

Tips To Avoid A Holiday Relapse



Planning Ahead For Sober Occasions

Nostalgia and sobriety over the holidays can be at an all-time high, so planning ahead can be helpful. By waking up each morning and having a plan, you can stay sober that day. It is truly one day at a time. Therefore, if you have an occasion you are trying to stay sober for, you should plan for that day and event.

Focus On Your Health

The holidays can be a lot of stress, which can affect your health and eventually lead to relapse. Try to avoid overexerting yourself, spending nights out late, or getting out of your usual routine. Focus on healthy habits and ensure that you get a good night’s sleep each night.

Manage Your Meetings

During the holidays you might think about canceling your AA meetings, or therapy sessions. This is a bad idea. It is essential to stay regular with your recovery schedule. Whether you are on vacation, visiting family, or simply at home over the holiday days, plan your meetings and ensure that you focus on keeping them.

Bring A Friend

If you are nervous about the holidays and seeing family, then you might consider bringing someone around with you who is also sober. They may not be in recovery, but they can abstain from drinking for the night. This can help you to avoid stressful situations, and they can also help you feel comfortable. They might also help you to stay accountable if you feel an urge to drink. If you are both drinking apple juice instead of champagne, you will most likely feel a lot more comfortable than saying you are the only one not drinking.

Learn To Say No

It can be empowering to say no. Although friends and co-workers might push you to drink as a gesture of kindness, if they do not know you are sober then it can cause more harm than good. Learn how to say no and learn to be confident when you say it.

Consider Driving

One great way to avoid drinking is to offer to be the designated driver, which will make other people want to keep you sober. You can also simply drive yourself. This gives you the responsibility to drive and should be a good excuse for everyone around you.

Pick Your Reason Ahead Of Time

If you are willing to tell everyone that you are sober then you have a perfect story. Despite this, if you do not want to tell everyone the reason you are not drinking over and over you can create an excuse. This might be that you are driving, that you have decided to do a sober challenge or any other excuse.

Volunteer During The Holidays

Although you might feel like you are in a bad place, if you volunteer with those who are less fortunate than you are, you might feel differently. Consider volunteering at a shelter or food bank. It may make you feel good, and also will put a smile on the faces of others as well.

Bring A Non-Alcoholic Beverage

It is never a good idea to come empty-handed, therefore you should bring something you would like to drink. This can be an energy drink, hot coffee, or sparkling apple cider. Whatever it is, bring enough to share. It is a great way to avoid drinking alcohol.

Don’t Forget To Mingle

When you are staying sober during the holidays you might accidentally isolate yourself. Especially if you are new to being sober, it can feel overwhelming to go into social situations. Try to avoid this because being isolated might make you depressed. Consider the events with close family and friends.

Don’t Forget To Have Fun


Even if you are in a situation that is not exactly ideal, you can still have a good time. Meet new people, connect with old friends or even family with whom you haven’t spoken for a while.

Rank Scenarios

One way to approach addiction and the holidays is to rank situations as they come. You might look for low-risk situations if you feel triggered, especially if you are new in recovery. For example, a high-risk situation might be an open bar, while a low-risk situation might be a sober Christmas movie party

Know Your Triggers

If you have specific triggers, you should be aware of those. You might even consider telling the people close to you about it. Being able to combat these triggers starts with simply identifying them. In the end, this can help you to make better decisions and rank your scenarios. It may also be the difference between relapsing and being successful in your recovery.

Be Sure To Feed Yourself

If you are worried about addiction and the holidays, be sure to eat regularly. If you do not eat you might end up having low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is known to increase anxiety or leave you irritable. This can lead to relapse. Consider eating something healthy every three to four hours.

Avoid Stress

One way that you might cope with stress is to use alcohol. Rather than do this, consider meditation or prayer. Think about what you have learned in recovery and try to push away your thoughts of drinking or substance use. This is a key factor in avoiding the stress that leads to relapse.

Look For Distractions

If you have friends that do not drink, you should focus on these people as distractions. Similar to a sponsor, sober friends are some of your best distractions, especially at an event. Try to distract yourself away from the bar, or area where drug use is occurring. You might even offer to help the host with cooking or another activity if you get antsy.

Rehearse Responses

If you are not comfortable talking about your recovery then you can come up with a cover story. Alternatively, if you are ready to come out about your recovery this might be a good time to practice what you plan to say. Making a script is a great option that you can repeat over and over again. It can be used to decline drink offers or even invitations to parties.

Learn How To Push Away Cravings

On average an addiction craving only lasts 20 minutes. Because of this, you should be able to count down the minutes and wait for the craving to end. Consider moving to a different room or space, even breathing deeply on your own in the bathroom. If you can talk yourself out of the craving, then it should be over soon. You might even consider substituting the craving with a non-addictive substance like juice or water. Remember why you became sober in the first place.

Speak With Your Support System

Speak With Your Support System

If you have family and friends that are supportive you should consider calling them. It is important to only speak with people who celebrate your journey and support you. Avoid people who are using abusive substances.

Additionally, if you have a support group, an AA group, an NA group, or anyone else you can depend on, consider calling them. You might make time for additional meetings during this time, or find a substitute if necessary.

There are a variety of different therapy options to consider if your usual group is not meeting. Another option is to head to a recovery program during this time. This can be a great opportunity to stay sober and on the right path.

Holiday Relapse Triggers

There is not necessarily a specific holiday and its hazards, but the holiday season as a whole. There are many common triggers during the holidays, but other holiday relapse triggers include:

  • Dealing with strained family relationships
  • Not having anyone to spend the holidays with
  • Managing pressures such as parties, purchasing gifts and traveling
  • Financial struggles
  • More often interactions with alcohol

Staying Sober Through The Holidays

The holidays can be extremely difficult, but if you are strong and focused on your sobriety, nothing is important. Try to find other resources for sober holiday fun rather than drinking. Consider spending time with sober friends, and remember why you got sober in the first place. There are plenty of treatment alumni networks over the holiday to join. Just remember, you never have to be alone.

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