I’ve only spent one holiday season sober so far. This year will be my second. But I have a plan to stay sober – a good plan – and I want to share it with you. It’s been vetted by people with a lot of years, so it’s not just my advice.
This is a season in the past when I would toast with champagne at dinner to feign classiness and then crack open Budweisers cooled in frozen Koozies to relax after the dishes were done.
I know I’m not the only one whose family uses the holidays as an excuse for a drunken rendezvous. Getting buzzed during the holidays always made it easier to get through. Sometimes I wish could kick back and drink with the rest of my family. However, if I’m honest, by the time we’re through, the gathering is anything but cool.
Not only do my family gatherings prove difficult, but in the past, holidays were a time I returned home to visit with old friends – and that always meant using heavier drugs. Many people talk about the drunken holidays, but fewer discuss the drugged out stories they can half remember.
According to SAMHSA, more than a third of people seeking drug rehab programs do so with cross-addiction, or the misuse of multiple substances such as various drugs in addition to alcohol. It’s no longer strictly sloshed events; the prevalence of drugs in homes increases every year.
With such a stressful season coming up, triggers abound. It’s imperative that alcoholics and addicts develop a bulletproof plan to remain sober during the holidays. I have a plan, and my aim is to help you have one with this Guide.
You never have to struggle alone. Developing a solid plan of action before events hit is important.
Recovery, Holidays, and Family Gatherings
- Bring another sober friend along.
A boozy event is more manageable with another person in recovery there to share and keep you on solid ground. You’re able to step out for a cigarette with them and chat for a moment when you’re feeling uncomfortable.
- Keep Your Phone Close
Sometimes you’re unable to bring a friend with you. In these times make sure to have your phone close by and your sponsor or some sober friends on the other electronic side who can be there for you when times get tough.
- Bring a Book
This might sound a bit lame, especially by today’s standards, but sometimes reading for a bit can help pull you out of a slump. You’re able to escape for even a few minutes and gather your thoughts to avoid a relapse. Try the Aid in Recovery Book Club.
- Be Honest
Maybe there’s someone in your family with whom you can share how you’re feeling. In some families, everyone will be drinking, but in many others, there is someone who isn’t an alcoholic but also chooses not to drink. Keep close to that person.
- Don’t Go
Sometimes the safest option is simply not to attend the function. While this may upset your family, your sobriety is the most important thing. Don’t sacrifice your recovery to make your family happy. Protect it – because without your sobriety you’ll be back to where you started.
Addiction and Downtime: Don’t Let It Get You Thinking
- Keep Yourself Occupied
Whenever you have a down moment, that’s when old thought patterns are likely to creep in. Try your best to stay as occupied as you can. Help cook, wash dishes, decorate the house, keep your grandma or grandpa company. When in doubt, go to a meeting. There are plenty of things you can do to stay busy in the present moment to avoid the old thoughts.
If you’re able to get away for a few minutes, meditation can be a fantastic practice to help center you again. Step into a bedroom or bathroom, sit down and take some slow, deep breaths. Say a prayer. Calm yourself down and remind yourself why you’re sober. Remain mindful of your reality and check in with yourself.
- Work on a Project
There’s not always something to do when you’re at a family function so bring an unobtrusive project along with you that you’ve been working on. It will allow you to work towards something for yourself. You might even have a family member interested in what you’re doing who you’re able to share your interests with.
Substance Abuse: Old Places Have Old Triggers
- Stay Away From Old Stomping Grounds
Sometimes avoidance is the easiest option, especially in early recovery. Don’t feel obligated to go to places where you don’t feel your sobriety is safe. If going back to your parents’ house is going to tempt you to hang out with old friends, let your parents know that it’s best for you to stay where you are and celebrate with friends. They’ll understand. They went through plenty while you were out on your runs.
- Find a Meeting
There are so many meetings available. If you’re unable to avoid going back home, find a meeting every day before you get there, so you’re able to step out for a couple of hours and reconnect with other addicts and alcoholics. While you don’t have to go every day, you’ll have one to pick from whenever you feel like you need one. No one knows us better than our people, and a meeting can always be a rejuvenating force to get you back into action.
- Invite Your Family to Your House
This may not be an option for you but if it is, offer to host one of the holidays or events at your house. It’s easier to stay in a sober mindset while in your environment, and maybe your family hasn’t been to your place yet. It could be a great opportunity to show off something you’ve learned to cook or let mom and dad see your newest project. While it will add some extra stress, it might be a great option for you.
Though the holidays can be hard, they don’t have to be miserable. Establish a plan before you leave the house and make sure you keep your recovery at the front of your mind. Let your friends know where you’re going to help keep yourself accountable. Stay in touch with your sponsor if you’ve chosen to get one.
You don’t have to handle the holidays alone; there are many people in recovery. Whether you attend meetings, went through rehab, or have developed an online community of sober friends, there are people around who love and support you and want to see you stay on your path.
You owe it to yourself to stay sober this holiday season. I know you can do it.