Staying Sober in the Festive Season

How to remain abstinent maintain during the holidays

It’s the end of the year and the beginning of the holiday season – a time for celebration with friends and family! However, for persons in addiction recovery, there is immense anxiety at this time of year because the festive season tends is has plenty of temptation in the form of alcohol, drugs and food.  

It’s perfectly acceptable to go overboard during the holidays, especially around Christmas and New Year’s Eve and give in to excessive drinking and drugging at parties.  

But for a recovering person, it is difficult to handle such scenarios. Actually, we have been masters of the game of partying hard, and they did it all the time…now everyone is doing it, and they have to rein in their impulses.  

We are also familiar with the after-party shame, regret and despair that used to accompany their holiday binges. It may appear like everyone is having a great time, but we are the ones who have to look at ourselves in the mirror the day – or the week – after. 

The good news for people who desire to maintain their recovery (and their self-esteem, self-respect, jobs, bank accounts, families etc.) over the holidays, is that it is possible to abstain from drinking or using, and it can be fun, too! The trick is to go with the flow and be prepared.  

Here are some tips to keep the holidays fun and clean:

Make a plan. When friends invite you to a party, don’t just accept automatically. Wait for 24 hours before confirming. During that time, ask yourself how you really feel about attending that party. Imagine who all the others will be at the social gathering. Jot down your feelings and fears around it. Consult with your therapist or sponsor. Consider their opinion before accepting the invitation.

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Structure your time. This includes not waiting till the last minute to make plans. You could land up stuck at home alone or with people you aren’t comfortable with, and limiting the amount of time spent in stressful family situations. Obviously, avoid people whose concept of ‘Christmas party’ includes drinking excessively. Some of your old buddies may still be drinking and using drugs to celebrate – it’s not for you. Remember, your recovery comes first.

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Boost your step work. Haven’t you had time to do some meditation in weeks? Procrastinating in making those amends, reading recovery books or writing a daily tenth step inventory? Now that you have some time get over the pending things and enjoy your holidays with a clear conscience.

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Find a meeting. Twelve Step meetings are everywhere. Even online. If you are travelling, plan ahead and go to a meeting. It’s fun to meet new members and explore new groups. Share your honest feelings about the holidays, fear of relapse, loneliness and facing relatives and friends you are drinking. Maybe sharing your emotions will alleviate them somewhat or solicit some sage advice.

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Celebrate recovery. Maybe you feel you are not ready to mingle yet, so arrange a get-together with fellow members and celebrate recovery!

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Maintain Covid protocols. Remember, the pandemic is not over yet. If you’re attending or hosting a holiday gathering, communicate your comfort level regarding COVID-19 safety practices, including your stance on mask-wearing, social distancing, and/or proof of vaccination status.

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Remember…if you’re on shaky ground, connect with another person in recovery or your support system. Use the recovery tools to get through. Just think, is it worth a few hours of ‘fun’ to suffer a relapse?  

Enjoy the fruits of recovery and you will feel grateful and joyful in 2022! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call Freephone 0800 140 4044

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