Cirque Lodge > Blog > Addiction > How to Stay Sober During the Holidays

Holidays can be a time of amazing experiences and creating shared memories with your loved ones. But holidays can also be a challenging time for those who wish to stay sober. Staying sober during the holidays can be hard, but it is very much possible, and there are plenty of things you can do to help you prioritize your recovery during these times.

This article provides everything you need to know to stay sober during these holidays, including a range of practical tips to use. These tips can help ensure you get fully involved and not only avoid the holiday blues, but more importantly, avoid having a relapse.

Holiday Season and Substance Abuse

Holiday Season and Substance Abuse

Whether you already are in a recovery program from substance use disorder or trying to manage alcohol on your own, the chances of feeling tempted to have a drink at a family dinner, holiday parties, when meeting with friends or at any other social event is very high.

In the past, you may have used excess alcohol during the holidays to cope with stress and unpleasant situations or even to feel more at ease in social gatherings. On the other hand, holidays might have been an opportunity for you to disguise your substance abuse.

Now that you are in recovery going back to such places and being near the same people as before can be a challenge. In addition, for many people who are receiving treatment for addiction, it's common to experience the temptation to relapse during the holiday season, particularly for those new to recovery.

However, holidays should be about celebrating our feelings of love for the people who are close to us, and there is no better gift to those who care about us most than our successful ongoing recovery.

Identifying Your Triggers

Alcohol use triggers can be any event, person, place, social interaction, situation, and even particular emotions that make someone in recovery feel the need to have a drink. Identifying your own relapse triggers is the first step to ensure you won't take steps back in your recovery.

Triggers can be everywhere around you, and they can be divided into three different groups:

  • Environmental Triggers - People you used to drink with in the past, places where you used to drink, or social events in which having a couple of drinks is a norm
  • Re-exposure Triggers - These are signs that remind you of drinking. It can be the exposure of having friends or family drinking near you, or seeing an alcohol advertisement on the TV.
  • Stress Triggers - These can be negative emotions, like fear, anger, or anxiety; chronic illnesses, sleep deprivation, or drastic and profound life changes like divorce and other overwhelming events.

Learning these triggers will help safeguard your recovery and avoid putting yourself in situations that can trigger you into having 'just a few drinks' that can quickly lead to a relapse.

Seven Tips to Stay Sober During the Holiday Season

The holiday season makes not relapsing a bit harder than usual. But following a few practices can help you manage your sobriety successfully during these hard times. These are some tips that are easy to remember and can be put into practice right away.

Celebrate Your Sober Life

This holiday season, don't forget to celebrate your new sober life and make it a priority. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge your victories. Remember who you were before and all you have accomplished since choosing to recover from addiction. Think about all the memories you are now making that don't revolve around alcohol and its emotional rollercoaster or the hangovers the morning after.

At family gatherings and events, you can choose a non-alcoholic drink. Non-alcoholic drinks can be fun and make you feel included on holidays without having to deal with people who don't know about your recovery and pressure you to have a drink. This is to say, you can still have fun at social gatherings with friends and family and not involve alcohol.

Stick to Your Routine

During holidays it is important to make self-care a priority and not pause your daily routine. Maintain your recovery practices and stay on schedule as best as you can. This includes not skipping therapy sessions, meetings, or appointments and trying to avoid stressful situations.

Moreover, don't forget about proper nutrition, and be sure to exercise because the better you feel physical, the stronger you will be emotionally and the more likely you are to avoid relapse. Do meditation or take a yoga class, or go for a spa treatment such as acupuncture.

Prioritize your well-being by properly taking care of yourself and paying close attention to your feelings. Keeping on track will help you stay focused on your sobriety journey.

Set Boundaries

Set Boundaries

You might not feel comfortable discussing and sharing your sobriety journey with your family, and that is perfectly fine. When it comes to your own health, you should not feel bad for setting your own boundaries and being prepared to assert them.

Whether at a party or a dinner with friends or other loved ones that involves drinking, be assertive and don't be afraid to say no. For instance, if offered a drink, it is fine politely refuse it with no further explanation (this applies to other drugs too).

If this feels like it could be tricky, consider coming up with a stock phrase that doesn't leave much space for further discussion on why you are sober during a holiday party. These could include "I am trying to get healthy" or "I am (trying to become) pregnant."

In addition, leave early from a party if you need. But also, remember it's okay not to attend events where you know excess consumption will take place if it helps in your journey to sobriety. Take an honest look at upcoming holiday events and ask whether it's beneficial for your sobriety to attend.

Create an Exit Strategy

Sometimes, your loved ones won't provide you with the instant support you want, and although they love you and want to see you at your best, they can still pressure you into participating in activities with a focus on drinking.

In order to not miss such events but still maintain your holiday sobriety, you need to come up with a strategy. Plan ahead so that in case you feel uncomfortable, you know what to do.

For instance, you can spend time going through party scenarios and consider the best way to react to them. In addition, you can choose your arrival and departure time, the best people to spend your time with, and maybe even who to avoid.

A good idea is to take your own transportation to social gatherings to ensure you have your own way home. Leaving early is an option. You don't depend on anyone else, and you can always decline a drink by saying, 'I'm driving.'

Plan Sober Activities

Activities that bring you joy and help you stay clean can also be a perfect opportunity to bond with family and friends over the holiday season. As an extra benefit, these can also be done with sober friends or family members who are going through a similar experience to you.

You can go ice skating with friends, plan a movie party or a dinner at your place, or spend time with the kids during family gatherings, to name a few. At the end of the day, what's important is to choose activities that can assist in staying sober during the holidays while also providing you time to get close to the ones you love.

Create New Traditions

If family parties have a heavy focus on drinking, and you feel like they are not assisting you in staying sober during the holidays, you can create other traditions. These can be done either on your own, with a sober friend, or with family members that can help with your addiction and don't mind doing it sober.

With a little bit of imagination, there are so many activities that can become your new tradition. Invite friends to attend Christmas events such as ballet and musicals; go watch the Christmas lights being switched on, or get together with your family to bake cookies prior to an annual holiday party.

As the holidays usually are a time of caring for others, the best traditions you can create are the ones that help other people, such as:

  • Donating at your local homeless shelter, food pantry, or soup kitchen.
  • Spending time with a neighbor who is confined
  • Volunteering locally or even abroad
Remember You Are Not Alone

Remember You Are Not Alone

Recovery from addiction becomes a lot easier when we have someone there for us. During these stressful times of holidays, your friends and family can be your support systems if you let them. Remember, they love you and might even want as much as you for your sobriety to be successful.

Talk to a loved one to help you avoid stress during the holidays. You can also speak in private to the family member who's organizing a party and explain you don't drink alcohol anymore so they can support you and not pressure you to drink.

Holidays can be stressful, but a good support system will help you go through this difficult time and protect your sobriety. Remember, there is an entire community of people who struggle with substance abuse and another one that is committed to supporting those who do.

It is vital to stay connected with your recovery community during this holiday season. Moreover, if you have someone close who is also in recovery for alcohol addiction or any other drug, remember to check on your sober friend from time to time and provide them support in staying sober during the holidays.

Seek Professional Help in Case of Relapse

In anyone's recovery journey, there will be relapses. You should not feel guilty if this happens to you, nor feel like recovery is not useful or possible for you, or that you have failed in staying sober during the holidays. There is no such thing as perfect recovery. And you are still worthy of love and care, no matter what path your recovery is taking.

Relapses are normal, and the holiday season is not easy for even those who don't suffer from an addiction. The important thing to do after a minor relapse is to ensure you get the help needed to get back on track.

Keep the focus on your recovery. Speak to your doctor, attend a group therapy session, or depending on the severity of the relapse, consider taking some time away in a treatment center.

Cirque Lodge

Cirque Lodge is an advanced, exceptional treatment center for substance abuse and alcohol addiction. We are situated in the serene Rocky Mountains of Utah, so we can offer you an enriching rehabilitation experience in a tranquil setting.

Our inpatient treatment program is provided in one of our two rehab facilities, Lodge and Studio. We also offer therapy and invigorating outdoor activities to allow you to truly reconnect with yourself.

In order to provide you with the best treatment for your condition, we conduct a tailored and individual assessment to help us create an effective treatment route to ensure a successful outcome and a long-term recovery, free of relapses, while also providing you with key tools to maintain a happy life.

Lastly, you can expect our holistic treatment program to be combined with the traditional 12-step model with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, and experimental therapies.

If you or a loved one is dealing with an addiction, contact us today at 800-582-0709 to know more about sobriety support treatment.

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