The holidays are right around the corner. This means parties, family, and, oftentimes, mingling with people who drink and use drugs. Your recovery might feel extra challenging during the holiday season. Consider this article’s tips and tricks to staying sober while still enjoying the festivities.
Recognize an Increase in Temptation
The holidays bring a mix of emotions. When you are in recovery for substance use disorders and other mental health conditions, these emotions might bring excessive stress and lead to an urge to drink or use.
More than any other holidays in the US, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations lead to relapse and other harmful behaviors. Unfortunately, studies have shown that the use of drugs and alcohol significantly increases during the holidays.
Drinking and substance use is almost expected at holiday gatherings and in many other social situations. Even for those without substance use disorders, this desensitization to social using can become extremely dangerous and result in health issues, binging, and fatal accidents.
All of this said, it is important to remember that holiday sobriety is possible. There are many ways to preemptively create sobriety plans to stay on track with your recovery.
Relapse Prevention Plan for the Holidays
Having a prevention plan in place will help you avoid potential triggers, urges, and social pressures that might interfere with your recovery. Here are some things that might be on your prevention plan:
- The name and number of your sponsor or a sober buddy. This will ensure that you have another person to speak to if certain situations leave you feeling vulnerable.
- Know where the nearest AA or support group is ahead of time to give yourself a safe place to go.
- Write down the physical effects that drinking has had on your body. For some people in recovery, this helps serve as a reminder that there are real, physical consequences to using.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself. While recovery looks different for every person, it is important to know how exposure to alcohol or drugs will influence your sobriety. For people early in recovery, being exposed to drugs or alcohol is usually too big of a trigger, and acknowledging that is a key part of staying sober.
- Predict causes of relapse. What are your triggers? Do you feel the urge to drink when everybody else is also drinking? Do certain people or behaviors make you want to use drugs? If you are able to realistically predict potential causes of relapse, you can then prepare better coping strategies to avoid this path.
- Use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) skills. It is key that your prevention plan includes strategies that you know work for you, as well as back-up coping skills you can use in crisis situations. Deep breathing, mental exercises, and meditation are examples of CBT skills that might ease the intensity of these moments.
Your prevention plan should be specific to your needs and sobriety goals. Additionally, it should also take into consideration the environment you will be in during the holidays.
Consider writing down this plan on a piece of paper that you can carry with you. This way, you are able to refer back to your prevention plan and coping strategies throughout these events and festivities.
The Sober Speech
While this may sound both silly and daunting, reciting a memorized “sober speech” has many benefits during the holidays. This speech might include how long you have been sober, your sobriety goals for the event you are attending, what you had to do in recovery, and why it is important for you to remain sober.
You do not need to share your story with every single person you interact with during the holidays, but having it on hand can help you explain your situation without panicking.
For example, you probably won’t need your speech as often if your family members already know that you are in recovery from a substance use disorder. However, you might find yourself in an environment where you meet new people. It is not uncommon for hosts to offer guests drinks or for friends to invite you to celebrate with certain addictive substances.
In these situations, your speech will be helpful for many different reasons, like:
- Declaring yourself as sober is self-empowering.
- It informs your peers that you will not accept drinks or drugs, and gently encourages them to avoid reflexively offering these substances.
- This holds you accountable to your recovery path.
- Your story might help others in similar situations.
Your speech might feel repetitive or dull after a night of explanations. Keep in mind that you are not obligated to share any details of your recovery that you do not feel comfortable making public. Instead, this tip is a way for you to embrace your sobriety and destigmatize recovery during exposure to holiday substance abuse.
In recovery, finding your support system is one of the key steps. This is true of maintaining sobriety during the holidays as well.
Being surrounded by the right family members might be a great asset, but keep in mind that substance use disorders are often passed down throughout generations. If you are able to, find a member of your family that understands your sobriety goals and will help you in moments of stress.
In a lot of situations, families cannot or will not serve as a support system. In these instances, having a sober buddy to accompany you at holiday events can be helpful. You are then responsible for holding each other accountable, and you will not be alone in your sobriety.
Alternatives to Drinking and Using
Depending on where you are, finding a meeting or having access to a support system might not be possible. Consider using one of these methods instead:
- Help others. Consider volunteering during the holidays to keep you busy while sharing the holiday spirit.
- Build yourself up with positivity. Remind yourself of the hard work you have done and be sure to keep track of the positive ways sobriety has influenced your life.
- Medication is sometimes necessary in extreme situations. Seek guidance from your doctors and recovery team if you feel that this would be beneficial to you.
Know Your Limits and Set Boundaries
Being sober looks different for many people. It might sound easy for some to say, “I just won’t drink/use.” For those who struggle with substance use disorders, this choice is not so simple. Be honest with yourself and others, know your triggers, and know when enough is enough.
There is no shame in needing to step away from a situation that is simply too much for you to handle. Remember that your health and recovery need to come first. If you are in an environment that is not beneficial to your recovery goals, it might be time to step away.
It is okay to admit if bar outings or parties where people will use are detrimental to your recovery health. Consider instead planning for sober celebrations to meet your goals and have fun doing it. Maintaining sobriety during the holidays is a big challenge, but it does not have to be an impossible battle.
Your Recovery Is Our Goal
If you or a loved one struggles with mental health conditions and/or substance use disorders, help is available. The holidays can be tough, but remember that you’re not alone. Fill out our contact form or reach us anytime at 225-300-8470.