10 Tips for Staying Sober During the Holiday Season

The festive season is approaching, and it is going to be a time of fun with family and friends! There will be plenty of holiday cheer during Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year!

If you are new in recovery from substance use disorder, remember the best is yet to come. This is the beacon of hope that is enshrined in the promises of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Family setting up Christmas Tree

Utmost joy and freedom would have already been experienced by those who have been in recovery for a while. It’s vital to safeguard against relapse during this festive season where excitement, emotions and alcohol flow freely.

Festivities in our society involve lots of fun, frolic and alcohol. For recovering persons, it can be a tempting trigger to pick up “just one drink”. Addiction is a chronic condition, and alcoholics and addicts are forever vulnerable to relapse. A return to active addiction is just a sip or smoke away.

Here are ten tips to stay away from that first drink or drug that will take you back to a life of unmanageability:

  1. Avoid slippery places. While it may be impossible to avoid get-togethers where there’s no alcohol, we can minimise exposure. Take your vehicle, so you are master of your own destiny. Arrive early, leave early.
  2. Keep your props ready. As soon as you arrive at the party, pick up a non-alcoholic beverage like sparkling water or plain soda. This way, others won’t be inclined to push you constantly to drink something. You’ll also be surprised that people don’t notice what is in your glass, as long as you are holding something.
  3. Eat well. If your stomach is full, you’re less likely to experience any craving that may get triggered by the “happy” environment or the smell and tinkling of glasses.
  4. Sharpen your recovery tools. During this festive season, attend more 12 Step meetings and talk more often to your therapist and sponsor. Pray and meditate more than usual. Read more of the recovery literature. Enhance your inner strength. As the Big Book of AA says, “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”
  5. Be aware of your triggers. Each of us has our unique triggers. You may have identified these with your therapist or AA sponsor. Be mindful of your triggers – whether they are stress, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety or old relationships. There’s always a sober response to our triggers.Christmas Food
  6. Avoid H.A.L.T. If you’re hungry, have a quick bite. If you’re angry, talk to someone about it. If you’re feeling lonely, reach out to a peer or head to a support meeting. If you’re tired, take a nap.
  7. Create new traditions. There’s no reason for you to attend the same type of celebrations with your former using buddies, as you did while using. Say NO to old patterns. Your sober friends and family members have your best interest in their hearts. Create new ways to celebrate with them.
  8. Watch out for hidden liquor. Christmas cakes, cocktails, mince pies may contain alcohol. Check the food labels or clarify with the host. If in any doubt, avoid it altogether. The risk isn’t worth it.
  9. Be mindful of time spent with relatives.  We all have our own version of crazy Aunt Wendy, who is going to criticise your career choice or Uncle Jack, who will insist on you having his famous home-made drink. It is also likely that we have a strained relationship simmering for years. Know your limits. Bolt from such situations as these may convince you that a drink is justified under the circumstances.
  10. Service before self. When you see others around drinking and enjoying, it’s easy to fall into the trap of self-pity. Get out of your self-obsession by volunteering for service at your local charitable organisation. Spend time with those who are less fortunate. This will put things in perspective.

Family decorating the treeAs you go through the cheer of festivity, you’ll discover that celebrations don’t need substances. It is possible to enjoy life without chemicals.

Real joy lies in connecting with family members, friends, and well-wishers with renewed energy that is born of the pure spirit of sobriety!

And in case you are finding it hard to hold on to your clean and sober status, you can always reach out to us on Freephone 0800 1404044.

We’ll be glad to help!