The holiday season is upon us which means merriment, family, and cheer. Unfortunately, the holiday season also means dealing with dysfunctional family, stressing yourself out on events and gift-giving, and lots of temptation. Staying sober through the holidays can be difficult for many reasons, but you can make it through with no slip-ups if you mentally prepare for holiday stress.
Let’s learn why the holiday season is so stressful for addicts and alcoholics, and what they can do to be sure they make it through the holidays without any major issues.
Going home for the holidays can present some interesting challenges for alcoholics and addicts. Going home might mean going back to the places you used to use and drink, or meeting people you used to drink or use with. Putting yourself back into a situation you’ve pulled yourself out from can be emotionally taxing. You’re encouraged to mitigate your chances for relapse if you’re going back into an old situation.
That might include not hanging out with people you used to drink or use with, not going to any of the places you associated with your old lifestyle and keeping family drama to a minimum if your family stresses you out.
Stress During the Holidays
Holidays are a stressful time by themselves. There are people that you must see (even if you don’t want to) parties to go to, trips to make, presents to wrap, and so much more. Add into the holiday season the stress of maintaining your sobriety and you have a recipe for stress-induced relapse. There are several tools you can use to lessen your holiday stress levels like going to 12-step meetings, meditation, practicing gratitude and more. Always arm yourself with stress busters when diving into a stressful situation.
Tips on Staying Sober Through the Holidays
Be Honest and Upfront
You must be upfront and honest with family and friends about any drinking or drug issues, especially if it’s your first sober holiday season. You don’t have to tell your life story and you don’t have to brag about your sobriety but if offered a drink or drugs politely decline and let them know you’d rather not. If you don’t want to deal with telling everyone get a trusted family member to do the informing before you show up.
Get Yourself Local Resources
If you’re going somewhere outside of your normal living area, arm yourselves with local resources before heading out. Even if you’re driving to your parent’s rural farm town, there’s still a good chance there are local recovery meetings like Alcoholics of Narcotics Anonymous.
You can use AA or NA’s website to look up local meetings including where they’re held, when they’re held, and if they’re a special type of meeting like a women’s only. Considering there are thousands of daily recovery meetings including online meetups, you have no excuse for not attending over the holidays.
Set mental health boundaries before you go. This could include refusing to get into an argument with your racist old aunt, not taking on a ton of responsibilities, refusing to go to a house where everyone will be drinking, and others. Does your grandpa tend to get drunk after dinner? Leave before then. It can be tough to tell friends and family they’ve crossed the line or that you need to get out but if your sobriety is at stake, set your boundaries and follow them. Setting boundaries with family and friends is easier when you’re honest with your sobriety situation.
If you’ve been comfortable with your sobriety for years you can likely participate in the office holiday party or go to a bar with your hometown friends without any issues.
If you’re early in recovery and still fragile, it’s best to avoid temptation altogether. This could mean not attending the holiday work party where everyone drinks or not going to your buddy’s house where you’ll know he’ll want to drink a few and reflect on old times. You might be able to do those things when you’re more comfortable, but it’s recommended to avoid temptation altogether if you’re early in your recovery.
Have a Back Up Plan
Always have a backup plan, especially if you know you might come to your wit’s end at a family event. Have a hotel you can stay out, a sober friend you can meet, or somewhere else you can go. Don’t ever trap yourself in a negative situation that could lead to drinking or using.
Have Someone ‘On Call’
It’s best to have a sober buddy or your 12-step sponsor ‘on-call’ should things take a nasty turn during the holidays. Having someone on call means they’re willing and ready to talk with you should something go wrong. Even just having the confidence that someone will answer if you need them is enough to get through the holiday season.
Get Yourself Through the Holidays
The holidays are full of parties, revelry, and family – but they can also be difficult times for someone who has just quit drinking or using drugs. Before travelling or visiting for the holidays set boundaries for yourself and anyone you’re visiting, avoid talking to old using friends or hanging out at previous watering holes, arm yourself with an escape plan, and be honest with those you’re visiting about your issues. The holidays can be tough, but you can make it through better than ever.