Four Strategies for Staying Sober through the holidays

The holidays can be a wonderful time; the people we love gather together to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. But those same social gatherings can be a minefield of temptation and anxiety for recovering alcoholics. While others unwind and relax with a beer, wine or cocktail, people in recovery must navigate how to be an active and involved participant in holiday festivities while abstaining from drinking. For recovering alcoholics, here are four strategies for staying sober through the holidays.

Strategy #1: Intentional Self-care

Between numerous group gatherings, constant planning, bad weather and juggling responsibilities like work requirements and family obligations, the holidays can be more fatiguing than energizing. And when we are tired, we tend to make snap judgments and decisions that can have negative consequences down the road.

During the holidays it is important to rest and recuperate fully. Carve out time to relax with others and enjoy yourself. Be sure you are getting enough sleep. And find time to nurture your spirit: Alcoholics Anonymous asks its members to acknowledge some Higher Power beyond themselves, though that force need not be religious in nature. Taking time to meditate and pray can be an important restorative measure.

Lastly, be in contact with a support group or sponsor throughout the holidays. The care and attention of others can be important factors for getting through the holidays sober.

Strategy #2: Proactive Planning

For those trying to stay sober through the holidays, preparedness is key. While you cannot plan for every eventuality or situation, taking precautions for times when you know alcohol will be present in social situations can help ease anxiety and reduce the possibility of temptation. If you know and trust the host of the party, approach him or her beforehand and explain your situation so as to avoid any possible uncomfortableness. Bring sparkling water, soda or another non-alcoholic beverage, and work to make sure you’re topped off throughout the party to ease the possibility of others offering you drinks or insisting on toasts. And if you feel the temptation to drink might be too much, don’t go at all. Your continued sobriety is the most important thing.

If you do plan to attend gatherings where alcohol will be served, come with prepared responses that you can give if others offer you drinks. Don’t feel compelled to disclose your alcoholism if you don’t want to. Rather, a simple deflection, brief excuse or just saying “No thanks” should be enough explanation for anyone.

Lastly, you might consider making a schedule to handle both your obligations as well as your downtime. Scheduling can provide important foresight and help to ease anxiety by putting all the pressing issues in front of you. It is important to stay engaged during lag times, as loneliness and depression can set in during times of inactivity.

Strategy #3: Be Thankful

The seven-week holiday season begins with Thanksgiving. Take this as an opportunity to remind yourself of your blessings, especially in the most difficult and trying of situations. It could be as simple as taking time to appreciate an especially beautiful day, or savoring a lovely meal, or cherishing the company of a beloved friend or family member.

You should also work to live in the now; there’s nothing that can be done about yesterday, and no way to control tomorrow. An attitude of mindfulness and thankfulness can help you be present in the moment, allowing you to live your life “one day at a time.”

Strategy #4: Seek Support

Unfortunately, the holidays can be notorious for emotional upheaval and drama. If things get particularly difficult during the holiday season, your first obligation is to yourself. The best thing you can do in times when emotional distress or pressure are making it difficult to stay sober is to seek the help of other recovering addicts and addiction care professionals.

“The time between Thanksgiving to Super Bowl Sunday is especially difficult for those in recovery from addiction,” said Brad Clark, LSCSW, LCAC. “It’s darker, it’s colder, there are fewer outdoor opportunities, and there are celebrations and family gatherings which can stir lots of emotions both good and bad. The difference between relapsing or staying clean and sober often depends upon the person’s ability to reach out for help during their time of need by picking up the phone, meeting with their counselor or sponsor or going to a 12-step meeting.”

If you or someone you love have questions about how to stay sober during the holidays, the staff at Prairie View’s Addiction Treatment Center can help. To inquire about the services Prairie View provides for addicts and their families, please contact us here: prairieview.org/contact.

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About Prairie View

Prairie View has a passion for helping people live well and relate to one another in a positive, healthy manner. By offering a complete range of mental and behavioral health services for children, adolescents, adults, older adults and families, Prairie View treats depression, anxiety disorders, marital and family conflicts, aging issues, addictions and more.

Founded in 1954, Prairie View is the state’s only faith-based non-profit behavioral and mental health center with locations in Newton, east and west Wichita, Hillsboro and McPherson. Prairie View serves as the Community Mental Health Center for Harvey, Marion and McPherson counties.