Holidays are supposed to be a time for relaxation, celebration and enjoying the best things in life. For those who struggle with addiction, holidays can feel like a minefield. Temptations are often a serious concern, but some preparation can make it easier to stay sober and remain in recovery.
Evaluate the Risk Level of Every Situation
Around major holidays, there are many different situations that can be risky to a person worried about relapse. It is important for all individuals to assess the risk levels of these situations and then decide which simply aren’t worth the risk.
For example, a family meal might be a relatively low-risk get-together. If a person’s family knows about their desire to remain sober, it will be easier to resist temptations.
A medium-risk event could be a workplace holiday party. There may be drinking involved, but it is also possible to leave early or bring along a friend.
A high-risk situation might be a bar crawl with high school friends. These kinds of events are often too risky, and individuals might do best to skip them altogether.
Bring Along Your Own Refreshments
Imagine a bustling, fun holiday party in the home of a dear friend or family member. All around, there are visitors enjoying themselves and sipping alcoholic beverages. While you abstain, you’re stuck drinking lukewarm tap water.
Sobriety doesn’t have to mean deprivation. Rather than doing penance with boring or unflavored refreshments, bring your own. Over the holidays, it might be nice to splurge on fancy bottled sodas and seltzers. It is even fun to make a homemade fruit punch with fresh pieces of fruit or herbs in every glass.
Practice Self-Care and Remember HALT
While the holidays can be enjoyable, they can also be stressful. This might be doubly true for individuals who are doing their best to stay on the road to recovery despite lots of events and imbibing. To combat stress, self-care is critical.
It is normal to stretch ourselves thin during the holidays. Late-night events, extra shopping and more socializing mean less time to sleep and recuperate. This is a very dangerous situation for those in addiction recovery.
One thing to keep in mind is the acronym HALT. This stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tired. Should those feelings emerge, address them right away. It sounds simple, but sometimes an extra hour of sleep or a well-timed snack can make temptations much easier to handle.
Rehearse Your Refusals or Excuses
Sometimes, the hardest part of turning down drinks or addictive substances is finding the right words. The best way to handle this situation is to practice.
If possible, stand in front of a mirror and rehearse a few refusals or excuses. These don’t have to be overly personal. There is no need to mention addiction or recovery if you don’t want to.
Being firm is key, so don’t waver in delivery. Something as simple as, “No, thanks. No drinking for me tonight” is concise and to the point. Practice a few key phrases that you can use without a second thought the next time a similar situation arises.
Find a Sober Buddy to Accompany You to Certain Events
Temptation always seems harder to overcome when a person is alone. Instead of flying solo, recruit a sober buddy to come along to the next holiday event.
A sober buddy can be a friend or even a date who is also abstaining. When there are two people who are both turning down temptations, there is a lower risk of falling victim to cravings. This can be especially helpful in settings where other people don’t know your addiction history.
For instance, it might be helpful to bring a sober friend or family member to a work event. You can keep one another on track, and there will be an extra layer of accountability for hard-to-handle situations.
Don’t Take a Holiday From Support Groups
Around the holidays, many people take time off from hitting the gym or going to work. A natural cycle of relaxation is wonderful, but there is no reason to take a holiday from support groups.
The benefit of groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, and any other group support meeting, is that they are easily accessible. Fortunately, most will continue to hold meetings over holidays. Attendance should be a priority, particularly when there are far more temptations than normal.
The holidays might be a good time to venture out and try new support groups. A different time of day or a different meeting location a little further from home can offer a fresh start or a new outlook. However, you’ll still retain that accountability and support that is much-needed throughout the year.
Maintain Routine Whenever Possible
For those in recovery from addiction, a routine is often beneficial. With structure to each day, it is easier to make the right choices. Fewer choices overall mean more willpower when it is needed most. Unfortunately, that routine can take a hit during the holidays.
Often, it is best to try to stick to a semblance of a normal schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time is recommended. Continue eating three healthy meals a day, and stay active if at all possible. Sobriety is part of a daily routine, so don’t give up your normal routine if you don’t have to.
Plan Activities That Don’t Revolve Around Alcohol
During the holidays, many people react to invitations and plan around temptations. However, you can also act first! Plan events that don’t revolve around alcohol, letting you enjoy the holidays without as much stress.
Instead of a family dinner, host a family breakfast. Splurge on delicious foods and fancy coffees and teas, skipping the booze altogether. Or, plan a bowling night, a movie afternoon or a gift wrapping party at your home.
While the holidays should be a time of enjoyment, they can also be a time of temptation. Planning ahead is the key to resisting those temptations and still enjoying the holidays to the fullest.