Staying sober during the holidays amidst the parties, stress, and overindulgence can be difficult. For any recovering addict the holidays pose additional challenges and it is important to recognise that the risk for relapse is high during this time. In order to help you keep your recovery a priority and still have a fulfilling and happy holiday season the following is your complete holiday guide to staying sober, having fun, and setting goals for an incredible new year.
Tips for Staying Sober through the Holidays
If there is a time where drug and alcohol abuse becomes more acceptable, it is definitely the holiday season. Holiday parties galore mean many opportunities to slip up, plus pressure and stress run rampant during this time — which is why it is important to re-evaluate your relapse prevention plan and include the following additional tips for staying sober.
1. Be prepared.
Staying sober requires planning ahead for potential relapse triggers. Temptations will come up, so be prepared for how you will deal with refusing drink offers, or politely turning down holiday party invitations all together. Memories of past holiday imbibing can also trigger temptations. Have a plan for what you will do any time you feel triggered, such as calling a sponsor or friends.
2. Choose holiday parties wisely.
Holiday parties are well known for their endless cocktails. Especially if you are in early recovery it may be best to avoid all unnecessary parties where alcohol or drugs will be present. However, if there is a holiday party you must attend try to bring a sober friend to hold you accountable and have an exit plan. You might also consider making and bringing your own pitcher of non-alcoholic beverage so you know there will be a delicious non-alcoholic alternative.
3. Stay away from slippery places.
The holidays can bring up temptations to say hello to old drinking and using friends, and perhaps they might try to reach out to you as well. Under no circumstances is it a good idea to stop by your old hangouts even just to say “Happy Holidays.”
4. Spend time with people who support your recovery.
Surround yourself with people who support your recovery and who are also staying sober over the holidays. Continue to attend recovery meetings and perhaps make an extra effort to reach out to people within your meetings and share the holidays with them. Especially if you are still working on rebuilding a healthy support system, the holidays can feel lonely — so make sure you have at least one person whom you know you can call.
5. Create new holiday traditions.
Sober holidays can be fun! There are many sober holiday activities that you can turn into new traditions. Volunteer for a local charity, go ice skating, make holiday crafts or cookies, or host your own sober holiday party.
Hosting your own Substance-Free Holiday Party
One of the best strategies for staying sober and eliminating the difficult balance between wanting to participate in holiday parties yet not wanting to risk your recovery doing so, is to host your own sober party. Hosting a party does not have to be stressful and can actually be fun and rewarding. These tips will make hosting your own sober holiday party a breeze.
1. Host a lunch party.
Especially if you are planning a party for people you do not know well, such as for your co-workers, having a party over lunch is a good idea. People will be less likely to expect alcohol, or show up with a bottle of wine in the middle of the day.
2. Focus on the food.
Whether you are serving simple appetisers or a full-blown dinner, have fun with the menu and try to delight your guests’ taste buds. You could also consider having a potluck or cookie swap where each guest brings their own favourite to share.
3. Incorporate fun games.
Holiday parties do not have to be about sipping cocktails and small talk. Games can get your guests interacting and laughing. Put a holiday twist on classic favourites such as Charades and Pictionary, or pull out the board games — Apples to Apples and Dirty Minds are both well-suited to larger groups and will definitely get the conversation and laughs rolling.
4. Serve delicious mocktails.
Just because there is no alcohol, it does not mean that drink choices need to be limited to Coke and water. Get creative and mix up virgin drink recipes that everyone will love. Creative holiday punch mixes and rich hot chocolates are sure to please. Or you could opt for a coffee bar and bring an exciting twist to everyone’s favourite hot beverage.
And amidst all the holiday parties, food, and fun you might begin thinking about good old ‘new year’s resolutions’. Most people make at least one resolution, but they are rarely kept. Of course, staying sober is always your number one priority, and should be included in your resolutions. But it is also important that when you think about and make resolutions, you make them in a way that sets you up for success instead of failure.
Setting Goals for the New Year
There is a reason why many people do not stick to their New Year’s resolutions. Often our resolutions are broad and unrealistic, which makes it easy not to follow through. The following tips will help you create achievable New Year’s goals that fit within your overarching goal of staying sober.
1. Set SMART goals.
SMART goals are goals that are specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, and timely. For example, saying “this year I am going to exercise more” is different than saying “this year I want to go for a walk at least twice a week.” The latter is more specific, it is measureable, and it is attainable. If you currently never walk, starting out with two times a week is realistic.
The goal should also be relevant. This is where you ask yourself “why do I want to do this?” A relevant goal will bring you self-fulfilment. Using the example above, walking could bring many benefits to your recovery including exercise, getting fresh air, and spending time with family or friends if you ask them to join you.
Also set a time limit for your goal. After one month, check in with yourself and see how you did. If you did not reach the goal you can assess why and alter the goal to make it more attainable.
2. Enlist the support of others.
As with every aspect of staying sober, achieving goals is easier with support. Setting goals with a friend can help you keep each other accountable and give you motivation to succeed.
For successful resolutions this year, choose a goal that is great for you and your recovery, make it SMART, and ask others to join you!
Focus on staying sober while still having fun this holiday season. Remember — you are not alone in your addiction recovery. The holidays are difficult for many people, (even those who are not in recovery) but you can and will get through them if you follow this guide. If you do feel yourself slipping towards relapse, be sure to reach out for help so you can get back on track.