The holiday season brings loved ones together to celebrate the great things that happened in the year and the good things that are about to come in the next. It’s a joyful time filled with love, happiness, goodwill, and cheer, making it the perfect occasion for gatherings of all sizes.
However, for many individuals recovering from substance use disorders, the holiday season is a trying time. With so many invites to social events, staying sober while being surrounded by temptations, peer pressure, and different triggers can certainly test one’s willpower. Because of this, recovering individuals need to make the necessary preparations in order to not fall into relapse. If you’re worried that you might return to your destructive habits at this time of the year, here are 5 helpful tips that will give strength to encourage sobriety during the holidays:
- Plan Ahead of Time
Every year, your holiday season calendar gets filled with numerous gatherings hosted by friends and family. Since you know this happens annually, it’s smart to prepare for them beforehand. Giving yourself enough time to create a plan can help keep your mind at ease once you’re in the event. It also serves as a friendly reminder you can turn to when things get tough. Some of the things you can add to your plan include the following:
- Staying for the feast but leaving before happy hour starts
- Politely saying “no” when offered a drink
- Avoiding conversations that can trigger you emotionally
- Always making sure that your basic needs are met first
- Choose Your Events Wisely
It’s common to hear news about holiday celebrations starting out wholesome, but ending up wild. These are the types of gatherings you want to avoid. Typically, these events involve the consumption of alcohol, recreational drug use, and party-goers taking things to the extreme. If you receive an invite to a party and sense that the venue, activities, and targeted guests can spoil your experience, it’s best to politely decline. You need to remember that you have no obligation to attend every single party during this season. You also have to believe in the power of saying “no” without adding any further explanations. Choosing which holiday events to attend helps boost your self-confidence. It also ensures that you’ll have a good time partying safely.
- Know When to Exit
You can’t always be certain that the event you’re attending starts and ends smoothly. A lot of things can suddenly come up and make you feel uncomfortable. It’s also possible that the plan you’ve created isn’t enough to help you relax and focus on your sobriety. Should you come to this point, the best thing you can do is leave. Staying in an environment that can raise your levels of anxiety or depression isn’t healthy, and it could lead to consequences that can destroy all your hard work. Your number one priority is yourself, so don’t feel ashamed even if you suddenly exit the party without prior notice.
- Keep Your Supportive Friends and Family Nearby
It’s good to have a strong support system nearby when attending any holiday event. Your trusted friends and family members know what you’re going through, so they’ll do everything they can to help keep you sober. They’ll also make sure that you won’t miss out on all the fun. Usually, loved ones who support your life of sobriety will join you in not consuming alcohol. They can also answer for you if someone asks “why you’re not drinking.” Plus, they can get you out of the party as safely and as discreetly as possible when you feel like you’ve had enough.
- Create New Holiday Traditions
The holiday season is also the perfect time to start new traditions that focus on your new lifestyle. After all, getting and staying clean is a feat, so why not celebrate your accomplishments through sober festivities? Throwing alcohol-free parties for those who are in recovery, for example, can help those who are getting treatment feel seen and appreciated during this time of year. You can also devote your time to volunteering at your local support groups and centers, and spread words of cheer and hope to recovering individuals.
Although the holiday season is where most people let loose, it doesn’t mean you have to break the rules of your sober lifestyle to have fun. There are several things you can do to ensure that you won’t relapse and still enjoy the festivities with your friends and family. You can create a plan that can physically and mentally prepare you for any triggering situations that could come up during the event. You can also decline the invite if you think that you won’t feel safe attending the party. You can even start new traditions that celebrate your newfound sobriety and determination to stay on track. When you’re able to stay sober, clean, and healthy during the holidays, you’re sure to enter the New Year feeling victorious.