Staying Sober During the Holidays
While the holiday season can be a time that many people look forward to, it can be an especially trying time for those who struggle to stay sober. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll run into drug or alcohol-related influences at social gatherings. It may seem like a no-win situation, but don’t despair. There are strategies for staying sober during the holidays that you can fall back on to strengthen your resolve and make it through with your sobriety intact.
The most important thing to do before a social event, holiday-themed or otherwise, is to plan for what you’ll encounter once you arrive. Planning ahead for the people, places, and events that you’ll run into will leave you better suited for problematic moments should they arise. Otherwise, you may find yourself giving into social pressure just to feel like you’re saving face. A few elements of planning ahead include:
- Avoiding High-Risk Scenarios: Is there someone you’ll run into who is notorious for pressuring people to drink? Or maybe there’s someone who will likely ask prying questions about your efforts to get clean. If this is the case, it’s unfair to put yourself through it all just for the sake of making an appearance. Consider stopping by for quick visits or not attending such functions at all.
- Bookending: If you anticipate you’ll be surrounded by alcohol or drug use during holiday events, consider a strategy of “bookending.” Go to a support meeting (such as a 12-step program meeting) before your event, tell them where you’re going and when you’ll be back, and then return once you’re done. Obviously, it may be tough to find support meetings that fit such a schedule, but you can also consider bookending with telephone calls to someone in your support system instead of meetings.
- Rehearse What You’ll Say: This may feel like over-planning, but anyone who’s ever practiced what to say before an important date or business meeting can vouch for the power of rehearsal. Settle on something to say when offered a drink – you don’t have to get into great detail. And remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you choose to abstain from drugs or alcohol.
Find Ways to Serve Others
Your commitment to recovery and staying sober during the holidays already speaks volumes about your drive, enthusiasm, and willingness to change. Look for ways to extend those positive attributes out into the world – you may be surprised how much good it can do for others and for yourself. Find time to give back, whether it’s by serving meals to the homeless, collecting donations for those less fortunate, or spending time with neighbors who can’t visit their families. By putting others first, you’ll spend less time consciously thinking of the struggle to stay sober.
Don’t Neglect Your Self-Care
The need to keep everyone happy during the holidays can be a delicate balancing act. After all, how can you care for others when you haven’t cared for yourself? Don’t leave yourself out – get plenty of sleep and exercise during the season, and try your best to eat healthy. Also, make time each day for some quiet relaxation and/or meditation, even if it’s only a few minutes.
Stay Connected With Supportive People
Your support network will be crucial at this time of year. Whether it’s friends, family members, or trusted co-workers, make it a point to know who you can rely on in times of need. And once you know who’s got your back, don’t just fall back on them during a time of emergency. Establishing regular intervals of communication is one way of setting up healthy routines that impede your desire to use drugs or alcohol.
Keep Things in Perspective
Finally, look at the big picture. While the Thanksgiving-to-New-Year’s stretch of the holidays may seem large, it certainly won’t last forever. By taking things one day at a time and telling yourself that all things shall pass, staying sober during the holidays might seem like a less daunting challenge.
If the holidays are an especially challenging time for you, please contact Warriors Heart today. We take pride in providing treatment for people who struggle with chemical dependency, post-traumatic stress, and other conditions. If you are a first responder, veteran, or active member of the military, we look forward to helping you heal with courage and dignity.