Stay Strong and Sober, So You Can Focus On Friends, Family, and Fun
The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone, but for those recovering from substance abuse or addiction it can be a real nightmare.
You could be feeling pressured by the extreme stress of packed and hectic schedules. It’s tough to fulfill all the obligations you feel you have, to your friends and family, especially when you’re expected to attend their gatherings. Maybe you used to use your addiction to “get through” time spent with family that drives you crazy, or maybe you can no longer participate in traditions like sitting around and drinking spiked eggnog.
Or, on the flip side, maybe you don’t have places to be during the holidays, and that’s what has you feeling lonely and restless.
Either way, these are difficult times, and pose an especially dangerous threat with how they may tempt you to relapse.
So, to help you stay strong and continue your recovery through another year, here are some tips for surviving the holiday season while sober.
1. Plan Your Holidays In Detail
Planning your time out is always important, especially early on in your recovery, but during the holidays it takes on an especially crucial role. Make sure you know what you’re doing every day of the holiday season, so that you’re not caught unawares.
If you think being alone will make you lonely or make you liable to slip, fill up your schedule with the season so you’re always around people supportive of your recovery. If you worry that overscheduling will stress you out, plan relaxation days so you’re getting enough rest. Just know what you’re doing ahead of time, so that you can be properly mentally prepared.
2. Replace Old Traditions With New Ones
Maybe your friends all used to go to a certain bar, or your family would all drink a certain drink, or you’d go to some event where there’s alcohol around. Traditions have a strong pull, and sitting out can feel like you’re sacrificing the heart of what the holidays are about.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. All traditions started somewhere, and now’s your time to start new ones yourself. Plan new activities, outings, or food or beverages for you and your loved ones to enjoy, ones that reinforce your sobriety. They may not feel the same right away, but give it a couple of years and they’ll cement themselves and you’ll feel much better celebrating traditions rooted in your new life.
3. Plan for Sober Travel
Airplanes can be a tough place for those in recovery. Many airports now feature bars, which can be a tempting way to kill those few hours while waiting to board your plane. Not only that, but strangers sitting next to on the plane you may order alcoholic beverages.
Try to have a friend or family member who is supportive of your recovery drive you to the airport and stay with you while you wait, as well as pick you up when you arrive.
As for the plane ride, you can explain your situation to the airline attendant and ask to switch seats if the people adjacent to you plan to get alcoholic beverages. Otherwise, bring headphones so you can close your eyes and tune out the alcohol with music, meditation tracks, or audiobooks.
4. Focus On The Present
The holidays are a time for giving thanks and appreciating all the good you have in your life. So when the going gets rough, try to remind yourself of how far you’ve come in your recovery and how much better off you are now.
If you don’t already keep a diary of some sort, it can be useful to wake up every morning and list out the things you have to be grateful for, especially in connection with the progress you’ve made in recovery.
And if you’re in a room where people start talking about the “good old days,” you may want to change the topic or leave the conversation. Focusing on and romanticizing your old days of substance use can be dangerous in that your nostalgia might make you too preoccupied with those times and turn into renewed cravings.
5. Keep a Non-Alcoholic Beverage In Hand
When at a holiday party, especially one where not everyone knows about your recovery, people may keep offering you drinks. Having to repeatedly turn down offers or explain yourself can be tiresome and risky.
Instead, you should make sure you immediately get a non-alcoholic beverage when you arrive—either one that you’ve made sure will be available, or one you’ve brought yourself. This means people won’t see you without a drink and come up to you offering you alcohol.
However, be sure to keep track of your beverage and not to drink from it after leaving it unattended. You never know when some well-meaning (or even not-so-well-meaning) partygoer might accidentally switch your drinks, top your drink off with something alcoholic, or worse yet, add a drug. If you’ve left your drink out while doing something else, get a new one.
6. Take It Easy
Finally, you should remember to take it easy and not go too far either in the direction of overindulgence or the direction of stress and anxiety.
Monitor how many holiday sweets, how much nicotine, and how many cups of coffee you have. Not only is maintaining your health important to your recovery, but those things can make you fall into a mindset of “it’s the holidays, why not” which can be risky for obvious reasons.
On the other hand though, don’t try to do too much. The holidays are still the holidays, so you should keep track of how you feel and how your body feels, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some time to yourself to rest. Those closest to you will understand and give you space.
7. Avoid Slippery Places and People
It can be tempting to go revisit old acquaintances and places you used to hang out, especially if you travel back home to visit family. But if these are places where you used to drink, or people with whom you used to go out and drink or do drugs, you should probably avoid them.
8. Keep Sober Friends Present
The flip side to that is keeping people around who are also in recovery, or are otherwise supportive of your recovery. It’s always easier to stay sober when you’re not the only one in the room doing it, and having a friend there with you can be a huge help. Not only that, but you’ll have someone to support you in case you feel you need to leave.
Even if you can’t have someone physically there though, you should reach out to your support network and have them on call. Whether this means stepping outside to call a friend in recovery, or checking into an online forum for a bit of support, it’s always useful to know there are people ready to talk to you if you need it.
If you don’t have a good recovery support network, now is the time to build one. The Other Side in Crystal Lake, IL is a sober bar operated by New Directions Addiction Recovery Services, and is a great place to socialize in a positive and alcohol-free environment.
Not only is it a great place to relax, have some fun, and meet people who can support you through your recovery, but we frequently hold larger events for you to attend, so you’ll have someplace to be during the holidays.
So come by and hang out with us—because even sober, you can still enjoy Happy Holidays.
The Other Side
93 E Berkshire Dr, Unit G
Crystal Lake IL 60014