There is considerable support for individuals dedicated to sustaining recovery from drugs or alcohol, especially during the holiday season. The added stresses of purchasing gifts, attending gatherings, and dealing with certain relatives can magnify urges and threaten resolutions that were recently solid and perhaps even taken for granted.
Many individuals and organizations have put forth guides to staying sober such as this. We urge all to whom this applies to consider these thoughts very carefully and implement as many defenses as possible beforehand.
7 Tips for Surviving the Holidays Clean and Sober
1. If you feel it is necessary, admit to loved ones that you don’t want to drink or use and why this is the case.
If you have been through intensive addiction treatment, there’s a good chance many people already know this. Still, the holidays are a very special time, and many individuals have to face enablers or who don’t understand why you cannot have just one drink, smoke, or whatever. Sometimes you have to stay determined and firm with people, especially those with whom you have used substances previously.
2. If you are considering using substances, think about how you will feel tomorrow.
Relapse often takes place in seconds, but the effects are often much longer-lasting. When that moment is over, and you are now facing the next day, you will probably be riddled with disappointment and regret. This may be coupled with another drug or alcohol hangover in addition to depression, anxiety, and other unwanted emotions.
Every person in recovery should understand that sobriety takes place in the present. Saying “yes” to substance use places sobriety firmly in the past and the potential future. Ask yourself: do you really want to threaten your recovery by relinquishing even a single minute, hour, or day?
3. If you carry a delicious non-alcoholic drink, you can more easily turn down alcohol.
Drinking a non-alcoholic beverage can serve more than one purpose. If you are relatively new to recovery, staying hydrated and having sugary drinks and taste good, such as soda, cocoa, cider, or eggnog, may help you resist cravings. It’s a well-known fact that alcoholics in recovery frequently experience sugar cravings, and indulging in one of these options might be critical for reducing feelings of temptation.
Of note, this approach might not be as effective for those with an addiction to other substances, such as heroin, cocaine, or meth.
4. Call another sober individual or sponsor or go to a support group meeting, either online or in-person, if possible.
Many individuals in recovery find it helpful to “bookend” holiday events with 12-step programs or conversations with sponsors. Locating meeting places and times in advance (even if they occur remotely) can help you structure your day in advance around group meetings rather than only relying on loved ones for support.
If in-person meetings are not an option, having another sober friend or sponsor on hand for a quick phone conversation can also be beneficial. If you are tempted to drink or use at a family gathering or other event, you can step away and call this individual to solicit advice. In some instances, you might be able to take this person with you, which can add additional accountability during this day in recovery.
5. If this is your first holiday season being clean or sober, consider making alternative arrangements if you feel certain situations could encourage you to relapse.
In addition to attending meetings, there are other ways to structure your time away from persons or places that may stress you out. It’s perfectly fine to decline holiday plans this year if you deem it necessary. Instead, consider hanging out with someone else who is sober, staying home, watching a movie, playing a game, or just talking.
There is no incorrect way to experience the holidays as long as you have access to the emotional support you need and realize that you are not alone. Nearly every individual in recovery from drugs or alcohol will have to go through this.
6. Go about each holiday day like any other regarding your recovery plans.
Regardless of whether it’s Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or New Year’s, you must continue to engage in the healthy, constructive behaviors that have helped to keep you sober this far. These may include exercise, yoga, meditation, daily affirmations, etc. You shouldn’t neglect self-care merely because this day might unfold a bit differently.
Moreover, if you let yourself break away from the routine you’re used to, this may be an unconscious signal to the alcoholic or addict in you and trigger thoughts or feelings that can undermine your efforts in some way.
7. No matter what happens, be firmly committed to not drinking or using.
Ultimately, while helpful, all the planning in the world can’t save you at any given moment—you have to do it for yourself. There are no excuses—it doesn’t matter if you are stressed out or upset for some reason. Deep down, you know that relapse, regardless of the situation, is the wrong decision. If you are thinking about anything else, you are lying to yourself.
Sometimes, the most practical way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to accept that you should not put yourself in a position of temptation. As noted, it’s okay to stay at home or engage in activities that don’t involve being around other people who may be using substances or causing you stress. But you do need to have emotional support at the ready.
What to Do if Relapse Does Occur
Unfortunately, relapse is frequently a part of recovery, and sometimes, in a person’s weakest moments, the unimaginable can happen. If this does occur, steps need to be made immediately to fix the situation.
Remember, not all relapses are created equal. Suppose you quickly return to a recovery routine that includes leaning heavily on sponsors, meetings, or even going back to rehab. In that case, you can break the cycle and prevent yourself from hitting rock bottom.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of relapse is that those who surrender to it allow themselves to wallow in guilt, blame, and shame, which is the last thing a person in this situation should be doing.
Beating yourself up isn’t going to help you or anyone else—it has the potential to encourage you to continue drowning your sorrows in substances rather than forgive yourself and take steps in the right direction. Instead of doing this, be gentle with yourself and your emotions while being firm in your resolve to rectify the problem before it gets any worse.
Getting Help for Addiction
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer a comprehensive approach to substance abuse and mental health customized to each individual’s unique needs and goals. Our programs include various services and activities vital for recovery, including behavioral therapy, group support, individual and family counseling, substance abuse education, aftercare planning, and more.
Please don’t suffer alone during this time and take advantage of professional treatment and services if needed. Addiction is a long-lasting and potentially devastating disease, but it can be effectively treated and maintained for life in many cases.