In a perfect world, the holidays should be a time of festivity and thankfulness. But for many, it’s a time wrought with triggers time and facing family dysfunction, stress, and pressure to meet particularly high expectations.
These factors can make it challenging for anyone to remain sober over the season, but this may be far more difficult for anyone in recovery or trying to overcome an addiction. The following are several tips that can help people stay clean or sober and on the best path throughout the holidays.
Advice for Holiday Sobriety
Identify and Address Potential Stressors Related to Family Gatherings
At some point during the holiday season, most people must deal with family, and this can cause a significant amount of stress for a few different reasons. Family time may be associated with a traumatic history, bad memories, conflicting opinions, excessive judgments, and less-than-reasonable expectations. Despite the best of intentions, many holiday family gatherings are rife with stress just waiting to happen.
Knowing what to expect in advance and how you plan to address problems can be key to staying strong and avoiding triggering situations. Moreover, just because you are sober doesn’t mean everything is going to be ideal. You may have to deal with many of the same stressors that you always have, and this time, you are going to have to do it sober. Be prepared for this.
On a different note, if the thought of having to maintain sobriety during this time is daunting, remember that it is okay to politely decline family events in place of other activities, such as volunteering or attending group support meetings. Your sobriety needs to be a priority, and if other people don’t understand this, then that is on them.
Be Wary of Attending Work-Related Events
Holiday parties thrown by employers can be riddled with temptations. Employees have to figure out how to mingle with supervisors and coworkers using an appropriate level of friendliness while respecting boundaries and not overdoing it. Combine that with alcohol, which is often served at many of these events, and you may have a recipe for disaster.
While many professionals feel obligated to attend these parties, in many cases, skipping out might not be a big deal. Furthermore, if you are struggling with sobriety, it might be wise to limit your time. Sometimes it’s okay to be open with employers and coworkers, and other times it’s wise to keep an addiction problem under wraps. In any case, you still must put sobriety first. If that means avoiding a situation where alcohol flows freely or at least limit your time there, you are best off finding a way to diplomatically navigate this situation without putting yourself in harm’s way.
Prepare to Deal With Financial Issues
Whether it’s for gifts, gatherings, food, drinks, gas, or airfare, there are often many extra expenses to be incurred during the holidays. If you are already on a fixed budget, the added costs can worry you and cause you stress.
The answer? Make a budget and find out ways to cut corners regarding spending or make a little extra (take on some overtime). Also, keep in mind that this year you might not be spending as much money on drugs and alcohol and that in and of itself may release a bit of financial burden. If money continues to be a problem, find ways to create or obtain relatively inexpensive gifts for people, and be honest about your financial situation with others. Chances are, they will understand.
If you are expected to pay for something very expensive, such as airfare, and it is stressing you, reconsider the trip. It might be better to sit this one out and depend on the support of others who are also sober, such as AA sponsors.
Find Solutions By Focusing on Support
Whether you are traveling or staying relatively close to home, it’s vital for many to commit to attending support meetings, such as AA. It’s not even a bad idea to go to multiple meetings, and “bookend” them around family gatherings or other holiday events.
Locating meetings and times beforehand and making a plan to go can be very helpful in structuring your day. Or, it’s certainly possible to go to one on the fly after you’ve found yourself in a compromising position or under stress. If meetings aren’t possible for some reason, keep an AA sponsor or sober friend readily available for a phone call or visit.
Set Boundaries in Advance
If you have dangerous influences at work, among your peer group, or in your family, it’s a good idea to be proactive and establish your boundaries before stressful events unfold. Identify those whom you should avoid altogether, or can only handle for a limited amount of time. It might also be useful to come up with dialogue for setting the necessary boundaries with others.
Find Alternative Activities
Identifying other healthy activities may be relevant for both family gatherings and an office or work party. Games, movies, crafts, and cooking are among the many ways you can stay busy during events that you would otherwise partake in alcohol or drug use.
Speaking of movies, going to a theater, or watching marathons at home is an excellent way to have an enjoyable time without courting unnecessary temptations. You can bring movies to a family gathering, or invite others throughout the season to watch along with you. And, of course, in the age of the Internet, there are plenty of places to find movies online with a subscription—or even for free.
Don’t Neglect Self-Care and Mindfulness
Do not neglect important rituals that have to stay busy and avoid triggers and deal with cravings throughout the day. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas or New Year’s, engaging in self-care is vital to assuring that your recovery must come first.
Most people in recovery are well aware of what this entails. For many, it’s a combination of exercise, healthy eating, meditation, yoga, and taking a daily inventory of why maintaining sobriety is not only essential but absolutely necessary.
It is also critical to keep living in the present moment, which is precisely where sobriety occurs and is sustained. Staying busy and patiently waiting for cravings to subside or cope with them appropriately is key to every single person’s recovery experience. You can get through the holidays in manageable increments rather than feeling fearful of the days and weeks as a whole.
Getting Help for Addiction
There are many ways to make it through the holidays while still keeping sobriety in check. But if you continue to struggle, you shouldn’t feel ashamed—just know that help and support is available for you.
Recovery in Tune offers comprehensive, state-of-the-art programs with a full spectrum of care, including medical detox, partial hospitalization programs, outpatient treatment, medication-assisted therapy, and much, much more.
Addiction is a chronic, challenging, sometimes life-threatening disease, but you don’t have to battle it alone. Contact us today and discover how we help those who need it most break free from the cycle of addiction and begin to experience the healthy and satisfying lives they deserve!