12 Tips to Safeguard your Sobriety during the Holidays
If you think about it, some of the greatest joy in your life has come from sobriety, so it’s important to protect yourself from relapse during this season of merriment where the alcohol flows more readily than usual.
Use these strategic tips to support your recovery in the next few weeks:
Always take your own vehicle to holiday parties so YOU can control your destiny. Also, take a sober companion with you for support and pay close attention to relapse triggers: H.A.L.T: Hungry. Angry. Lonely. Tired. Arrive early and leave early.
Make Self Care a Priority.
Celebrate the holiday season by taking care of your body, mind, and soul. We cannot be our very best if we are depleted. Give yourself the gift of time for yourself: an acupuncture treatment, a yoga class, time for meditation. Proper nutrition and plenty of healthy physical movement will make you feel stronger, both physically and emotionally.
We can get overwhelmed with the busyness of the season, so as you plan each day in December, start with 12-step support as your first priority. This could mean bookending a holiday event with phone calls to someone in recovery before and after the event. Commit to attend a 12-step meeting (or two) each day and inviting a friend to attend with you. Also, if you’re traveling to another city, plan ahead and make sure you attend meetings there as well.
Limit time around your relatives.
We all have our own version of crazy Aunt Bonnie who is going to criticize your career choice and make you feel “less than” or Uncle Bob who will insist on you having his famous holiday drink. And even worse, we most likely have strained family relationships that have been simmering for years. This type of stress can lead us to rationalize and convince ourselves we are entitled to a drink. Instead, surround yourself with supportive loved ones.
Have your props ready.
When you arrive at a party, immediately get a non-alcoholic beverage and keep it in your hand. Whether it’s sparkling water or soda, others won’t be inclined to push drinks on you constantly. And, the truth of the matter is, people never really notice or pay attention to what’s in your glass. (Most people tend to think about themselves more than others!)
As you consider holiday occasions, think about them as a way to make new friendships and perhaps rekindle old relationships with friends. Instead of making the event about drinking and eating as a priority, intentionally make it about “people” and go into each party looking forward to establishing real connections that will stand the test of time.
The holidays don’t give us a green light to overindulge. There’s nothing worse that stuffing ourselves with too much sugar, carbs and fat-laden goodies that make us feel bad. So be proactive and choose healthy dietary foods that will make you want to celebrate, not feel guilty.
Service, not self.
When we can focus on others, we find more joy and gratitude. So look for ways to think about and serve others. Make a special family recipe and deliver to friends. Donate your time at a homeless shelter, food pantry, or soup kitchen. Spend time with a neighbor who is confined. These spiritual opportunities allow us to spread happiness and cheer to others.
Create new traditions.
Celebrate the fact you are reestablishing control over your own life. As you affirm your new self on these festive days, you are choosing to celebrate the new, better, clean and sober life that you have created. This might mean hosting a sober, festive gathering with friends in recovery. It may mean volunteering to serve at local 12-Step support groups. Remember, giving is one of the best things you can do during the holidays.
Avoid relapse triggers.
Of all triggers, the most significant can be emotional triggers. No matter if you are in recovery or not, the holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year. With so many activities squeezed into one month, our normal routines get disrupted and people get frustrated and anxious.
Also, there’s increased demands from your spouse, partner or other family members, and this can put serious stress on your sobriety. This can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, humiliation, embarrassment, anger and depression.
The holidays don’t have to be “perfect” and just like previous years. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Saying “no” is perfectly acceptable and it will protect you.
Make sobriety your top priority.
If you think about it, all holiday parties are optional. If you don’t think the activity is going to be good for your recovery, it’s okay not to go. You can politely decline the party invite, but make a lunch date with the host for another day.
Maintain your spirituality.
Our commercial world wants us to believe that joy can come from tinsel, booze and shopping. It sells us the lie that happiness can be found in these. Instead, focus on the true spirit of the season. Regardless of your faith or spiritual beliefs, the holidays are really about two things: giving and gratitude. When we focus on these, the other things such as resentment, disappointment, anger, worry, self-loathing show up far less often and cannot find a foothold in our hearts.
How do you safeguard your sobriety during the holidays? We’d love to hear from you.