The holiday season is a time for cheer, gift-giving, and family bonding. But, for someone who is newly recovered, it can be a challenge. Staying sober during the holidays can be difficult, as with all of the fun festivities comes an equal amount of stress. Stress is one of the leading causes of relapse, so dealing with the holidays can put you at risk of losing your sobriety. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 5 tips to enjoy your first holiday season in recovery -- and stay in recovery.
Learn How to Say No
While you may have been the life of every holiday party in the past, this year you don’t have to feel pressured to keep up appearances. You don’t have to say yes to every invitation you receive, as over-committing and over-extending yourself could lead to stress. If you say yes to every event, you will most likely not be able to relax at one event, as you’ll be feeling obligated to make it to every party you said you’d go to. This can lead to stress, which can trigger a relapse.
If you feel like the event will put your sobriety at risk, you won’t know people there, or you frankly just don’t want to go, do not be afraid to say no. You don’t have to offer an explanation or give a speech about your situation, just politely decline the invitation and go on with your own plans! The holiday is a time for fun, but your sobriety and peace of mind should come first.
Bring a Sober Buddy
Bringing a sober friend is the best way to keep yourself, and each other, on the right track. You can be each other’s support systems throughout the night, so if either of you feels uncomfortable, you have someone to lean on who understands. Further, having a sober friend can ease the pressure you may be feeling to drink. You’ll feel less alone when you aren’t the only one who isn’t drinking.
Another added bonus is that if you bring a friend to a family event, you lower the possibility of arguments and drama. When you have a guest present, most families are likely to steer away from bringing up any conflicts so as to not make your guest uncomfortable. Family drama can often be a trigger for relapse during this time, so your sober friend is your golden ticket out of a holiday family squabble.
Start New Traditions
Often, the holidays used to mean too much partying for those who are newly sober. By starting new traditions and making new memories, you can make this season mean something different this year.
You aren’t obligated to engage in the typical festivities that accompany the holidays, you can create your own traditions. For instance, instead of having Thanksgiving dinner, maybe you want to start going on an annual hike with friends and family, or join a turkey trot for an active holiday. Perhaps instead of attending a Christmas party, you can organize donations for children without gifts, or plan a skiing trip. Keep your holiday season exciting by trying new things while maintaining your sobriety.
Make Self Care a Priority
No matter what, put your health first this season. Remember to take care of yourself and stay in your routine, even during the holidays. Continue attending meetings, getting exercise, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and other productive activities in your routine make you feel good.
Additionally, If you’re at an event, and you start to feel overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to take a break. Take a step outside for a bit, or even leave the party if you need to and give yourself a breather. Put yourself and your sobriety first by giving yourself some time to wind down.
The holidays are fun and exciting, but they could also bring up difficult memories for someone who is newly recovered. If you start to have negative thoughts or flashbacks, be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel your feelings. It is okay if this time of year is difficult for you, allow yourself to go through it and come out of it stronger, with your sobriety intact.
Stay in Touch With Your Support System
In recovery, your support system is the most important part of sustaining sobriety. Whether it's friends and family or your AA/NA group, be sure to keep in touch with them in case you need help.
For instance, if you are at a party and feeling worried about relapse, phone a friend to come pick you up. Or, if you are spending the holidays alone, video chat with your loved ones to feel included in their festivities and avoid feelings of loneliness. As stress runs high during the holiday season, it will be beneficial to have others you can lean on for support.
The holidays are an exciting time to spend with the people you love, but they can also come with a lot of added stress and triggers. If this is your first holiday season in recovery, as long as you prepare and set boundaries, you can still have a great time while keeping your sobriety. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction this season, Gateway Rehab offers a variety of services to help you achieve a sustainable recovery.
At Gateway Rehab, our priority is to guide patients toward a life of sustained recovery. Our team recognizes that not every patient shares the same path to sobriety, and that is why we customize treatment options that address each individual’s personal needs and goals. If you or a loved one are currently struggling with addiction, we are here to help. Schedule your first appointment with one of GRC's recovery centers today or call 1-800-472-1177 for more information.