The holiday season often brings festivities filled with cheer, but for those in sobriety, it can also be a time fraught with stress and anxiety. The presence of alcohol and recreational drugs at holiday parties and family gatherings present a difficult challenge for those who must be careful not to fall back into addiction.
Here are some practical tips and strategies for successfully navigating the holiday season while staying committed to your sobriety journey.
Keep a full schedule of activities that won’t put in you in contact with drugs or alcohol. Go shopping. Bake cookies. Play board games with family and friends. Attend a holiday concert or theatrical performance. Spend quality time with your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Do whatever you can to stay busy and keep your mind occupied on matters unrelated to your substance abuse issues.
Focus On Your Well-Being
Staying healthy is important for maintaining sobriety during all times of the year, but it is especially important during the holidays when overstuffed schedules and complicated family dynamics can elevate stress.
Make sure that you eat well, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. And to keep your anxiety at a minimum, avoid the holiday events that have caused you stress in the past. If hosting a large family gathering is too much for you to handle, let people know that you won’t be able to do it this year. If you’re invited to a party at which your heavy-drinking relatives will be present, simply don’t go. Those who love you will understand that your commitment to sobriety must take priority.
Spend Time Outdoors
Even without the holidays, keeping a commitment to sobriety in the winter can be difficult because you’re spending so much time cooped up inside. There is such a thing as the “wintertime blues,” which can compound the difficulty of staying sober.
Going outdoors and spending some time in the sunlight can counteract the wintertime blues. Participating in an invigorating wintertime sport like skiing, snowboarding, skating or snowmobiling, can further elevate your mood. Or merely taking a walk on a crisp, sunny winter day can provide excellent health benefits for both your mind and body.
Become More Spiritual
If you are a religious individual, attending church or synagogue services can be especially comforting during the holiday season. Not only will your faith remind you of your connection to a greater power, but it can also be a source of strength in staying committed to your sobriety for the sake of those you love as well as for yourself.
If you are nonreligious, you can derive spiritual benefits through such activities as meditation and yoga. Try to find joy from listening to holiday music, walking in nature, and having meaningful conversations with the people you love.
Spend Time Helping Others
The holiday season is a time for thinking about others more than you think of yourself. Instead of wallowing in self-doubts, self-pity and self-recriminations, concentrate on ways to bring holiday cheer to other people’s lives.
Among the things you can do are volunteer at a local food pantry or soup kitchen, participate in a toy or clothing drive, or adopt a needy family and brighten their lives with gifts of clothing, toys, and household goods.
Avoiding Alcohol at Holiday Gatherings
Stay away from large gatherings at which drinking or recreational drug use are prevalent. It’s better to go to small, intimate parties where people know you and are allies in your cause to stay sober. Stick to family gatherings where the focus is on kids, presents, board games, food, beverages of choice are soft drinks and water.
If it’s not possible to avoid all holiday gatherings where alcohol is present, have a strategy for how to handle them. Have a nonalcoholic beverage in hand so no one inquires whether you “need a drink.” Provide your own transportation or have a ride-sharing app on your phone in case the party is not what you expected and you need to make a quick exit.
Don’t Go at It Alone
Holidays are a busy time, but don’t overlook the things that have kept you sober all year long. Participate in group and individual therapy sessions as needed. If you require extra help to stay sober during the holidays, lean on your support groups and sponsors to help you through the rough spots. Reach out to others and focus on the human connections that are the ultimate source of joy during the holiday season.
Beachside Rehab has programs to help those who need help to continue their sobriety. Contact our trained admissions counselors at 866-349-1770 to discuss our treatment options.
Photo by Lore Schodts on Unsplash