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staying sober through the holidays

Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

7 Tips for Staying Sober Through the Holidays

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The holiday season is upon us and this is the time of year when family and friends gather together to celebrate love and togetherness. While the holidays signal good food and good times, it can also signal fear and worry for those in recovery. While food and cheer are synonymous with the holidays, so is the abundance of alcohol and possibly other substances, making a bigger challenge to staying sober through the holidays.

If you are in recovery, the holidays can put your coping skills to the ultimate test. While this time of year can bring uncertainty and fear, having a solid set of strategies to cope with triggers can help make the holidays more enjoyable.

Top 7 Tips To Enjoy the Holidays and Stay Sober

Practice Excellent Self-Care

No matter how long you have been in recovery, the holiday season can bring forth powerful emotions. Whether it is depression or anxiety, those mental states can jeopardize your sobriety. To combat those feelings, make sure that you put you first and practice excellent self-care. This includes exercise, adopting a healthy and balanced diet and engaging in practices such as yoga or meditation.

It is also important to remember to keep up great personal hygiene habits. Taking great care of yourself on the inside and outside will give you confidence and decrease the effects of triggers during the holidays.

Avoid Places that could Trigger Relapse

Perhaps the biggest trigger during the holidays are the people, places, and events that provide the greatest stress. You must know your triggers and steer clear from them if and when possible. These can be old using friends, bars or taverns, houses where you used to use and even holiday events that you may have previously attended during your using days.

When holiday events coming up, trust your gut. If you know that a certain event, a group of people or place makes you uncomfortable, it is best not to go. It may be a hard decision, but you must do what is best for you. Those who are in your support system will know and understand if you choose not to attend a holiday function.

Replay the Movie

When you are considering attending a holiday event, it is important you think those completely through before making a decision. You will need to ask yourself the tough questions before you say yes or no. For example, did the event make you feel uncomfortable or relaxed? Was there drinking and other drug use going on? If it was a family event, was family tension present?

Once you assess your feelings, you can decide whether an event is worth attending. If you do decide to go, the honest answers you provided yourself will help you mentally prepare for the event. Again, trust your instincts. If an event makes you feel uncomfortable to the point of anxiety, do not go.

Create New Sober Holiday Traditions

A great way to reduce the triggers associated with the holidays is to create new traditions for you and your friends and family. Some ideas include the following:

  • Organize a family and friends dinner and have attendees bring non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Volunteer at a drop-in center or shelter
  • Attend a holiday concert, musical or theater production.
  • Organize an ice-skating date

It is important to realize there is no one “proper” way to celebrate holidays. Whatever is chosen, it should be positive and reinforce your commitment to your sobriety.

Bring Your Own Drinks

Another great way to celebrate sober is to bring your own non-alcoholic beverages to a holiday event. These drinks can be any that you like including sparkling cider or water, flavored water, grape juice or others. If there is an open bar, ask the bartender if they serve non-alcoholic mixed drinks or cocktails. No matter if you bring your own or if your host has provided beverages, it is important that you get your own drinks. If a friend or family member get your drink, they may forget you are in recovery and get you an alcoholic beverage by mistake.

Plan Your Day

Having a game plan in place for holiday functions is also a great way to safeguard your sobriety during the holiday season. Holiday functions take you out of your normal daily routines, and as a result, can create an undue amount of stress. Being mindful of where you are going and who is going to be at these events will help minimize those stresses.

It is best that you don’t linger for hours and hours at any event. This will help reduce triggers and gives family and friends the time to see that you are doing well in your recovery. You may also want to bring a supportive friend—especially if you are new in recovery. Having an extra source of support can be invaluable if you sense danger or feel vulnerable.

Have an Exit Strategy

If a situation becomes too stressful or overwhelming, having a good exit strategy is crucial. This exit strategy can be having a supportive friend or family member on standby that you can text or call. Another great exit strategy is knowing any meetings close by during the time frame you are at or between events. If a situation becomes overwhelming, leave right away. You can always call the host and explain why you left. More often than not, they will be understanding.

Get Professional Help When in Need

Drug and alcohol addiction is a progressive condition which negatively impacts the user as well as their family and friends. If you need help breaking the vicious cycle of addiction, call NuView Treatment Center toll-free today. Our experienced and compassionate treatment professionals will create an individualized treatment plan that will fit your unique needs.

Both our intensive outpatient alcohol treatment in Los Angeles and sober living programs utilize holistic and traditional treatment approaches created through extensive research and testing. No matter the severity of your addiction, NuView Treatment Center can help. 

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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