Whether you’re spending time with family or on your own, the holidays can be daunting for anyone in recovery. On top of the normal cravings experienced by recovering addicts, you’ll have to face the added pressure of the idyllic family life, of almost everyone drinking, and endless parties which you likely can’t attend. All of this can pile up to leave you feeling sad, lonely, and left out. It might feel like you’d give anything for a drink, or like this one time won’t hurt, after all, it’s Christmas, right?
Even a positive Christmas can leave you feeling like you want to celebrate and party – and that’s even more dangerous. While you’re likely on your guard about feeling unhappy and stressed, fewer people realize that they’ll relapse when happy. Unfortunately, most people actually relapse when experiencing something good, like a promotion, buying a new home, or having a great Christmas with friends and family.
Preparing yourself, staying on your guard, and ensuring that you’re enjoying yourself without alcohol are the best steps you can take to ensure your sobriety. Most importantly, sober doesn’t mean that you won’t have fun.
Decide How to Cope
The holidays will be full of alcohol, triggers, cravings, and even people telling you to drink. Family members might slip up and offer you a drink, might leave you to go a bar, might order alcohol at a restaurant, and you might find yourself having to say no to something you really want. You’ll also have to face a lot of triggers, like other people drinking, alcohol in front of you, people you used to drink with, invitations to go drink, having a good time, and stress.
Planning how to cope with all of the triggers that will come up will help you to handle them more easily when they do happen. You should consider writing down a list of triggers, deciding on actions you can take, deciding what you can do in case cravings hit, and if you can, asking someone to be your sober buddy you can call when you need to.
Attend Sobriety Meetings
No one really thinks of a sobriety meeting as fun, but it can be a valuable part of your holiday period. Taking a few hours to attend a sobriety or AA meeting will give you the perspective to remind yourself why you are staying sober, will give you good examples to follow, and will likely give you something or someone to be accountable to.
If you aren’t part of a sobriety group or are traveling, nearly all AA groups allow you to join as a guest member. Just look up the group online, email or call them, and ask if you can attend.
Go to Sober Parties
Just because you’re sober doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be having fun. A sober party is a great way to socialize and have fun. While many of us are accustomed to using alcohol as a social lubricant to make us feel less awkward and more social, you don’t need it to have fun. Consider hosting your own party and inviting friends and family. You really only need a few things for a great party:
- Music – Try to choose playlists that don’t include alcohol themed songs
- Food – The more fun the better, consider having attendees bring something to contribute
- Drinks – Get creative with alcohol-free mixed drinks, mocktails, and other fun beverages rather than just plain soda. Or, if you feel like you might sit around wishing you had alcohol in mocktails, consider serving beverages like cocoa and coffee that don’t normally include alcohol.
- Games – Entertainment is a must. You can play anything from card games to Twister to taking turns at Mario Kart, but make sure you have something. Group games like quiz style games and card games are almost always a hit.
That’s it. The only other important element is to remind attendees that there is no alcohol allowed.
Bring Your Own Beverages
Chances are you will be invited to a variety of holiday parties and the hosts won’t always be considerate of your needs. You can decline if you think alcohol will be there or you don’t think the host will respect your desire not to drink. If you want to go or should go, you should also bring your own beverages so you know you have something fun and non-alcoholic to drink. Just make sure you bring something you actually enjoy.
Take Care of Yourself
The holidays are a period when we often spend a lot of time busy and stressed. You might go from not eating anything at all to overeating at a dinner party, might exhaust yourself putting up lights or decorations, or cleaning before family comes over, and you might be stressed from clashing with family members with opposing viewpoints.
Taking the time to take care of yourself is important for managing stress and cravings. This means ensuring that you eat plenty of nutritious food including fruits and vegetables and eat regularly throughout the day. You should also get exercise or go the gym every day, but don’t exhaust yourself. Taking care of your space and keeping it clean and tidy will also help you to feel better.
Plan to Do Things You Enjoy
One of the biggest caveats of being happy is that it often requires work. If you want to do things that make you happy, you often have to plan and make time for them yourself. Consider things you like to do, invite people to join you, and go out and do them, as long as they’re sans alcohol of course. For example, shopping, cooking together as a family, decorating a tree, skating, dancing, hiking, ice fishing, or anything else you like.
If you want to have fun, you have to plan time to do things you like. And, if you do that, you will make yourself happier and therefore more able to resist cravings when they hit.
The holidays can be a difficult time for anyone in recovery, but you can make it without slipping up. Just keep your motivations to stay sober in mind, keep yourself on track by attending group meetings, and make sure you’re taking care of yourself and having fun.
If you aren’t part of a sobriety group, please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today. We are happy to assist you and provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors. Help is available today.