If you’re just gone through rehab, or even if you’ve been clean and sober for a while, the holidays can be a difficult time. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone – millions of Americans are in recovery from drug and alcohol use and every one of them has to try to get through the holiday season without drinking or using. That’s a big deal for most of us, considering the holidays are linked to family, stress, parties, and increased social obligations.
For active alcoholics and drug addicts, the holidays are a time to more freely indulge in substances in public. But for the person in recovery, they can be incredibly difficult for a variety of reasons.
Unfortunately, the holidays will likely remain stressful, may remind you of using and drinking, and will likely involve too much social obligation for your liking. Luckily, all of that stress doesn’t have to mean relapsing, and you can actually enjoy yourself without using or drinking.
Plan How to Have Fun
The holidays can be a lot of fun without drugs or alcohol. If you find yourself reminiscing about how much fun you used to have at parties, stop. You weren’t having that much fun. Or, you wouldn’t be sober now. This year, you can have fun participating, talking with people, and doing things you enjoy. Go dancing. Go see Christmas movies. Take tours of Christmas lights. Make dinner with friends and family. And, go to parties with the intent to socialize.
If you go somewhere and are bored the whole time, you’re more likely to relapse. But, if you know what you can do, actively engage with people, and ensure you have options to do so, you don’t have to be bored. Most importantly, if you do have fun without alcohol, you’ll actually remember it in the morning.
What can you do? Take a few minutes and write down things about the holidays you used to enjoy as a kid. What can you try again? Skating? Dancing? Lights? What can you explore now that you’re clean and sober? If you don’t like talking to people, just avoid parties and go do something else with likeminded friends instead.
Learn to Say No
Relapse is intrinsically linked to stress and overwork. This means that if you overload yourself with obligations like going to every family and work party, seeing all of your friends, and having obligations every single day, you might end up feeling overloaded and without any resources. This can result in a relapse, because HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) is a recognized relapse trigger.
What can you do about it? Pace yourself, learn to say no when things become too much, and plan some downtime in between events and festivities. You can make relaxation about spending time with friends and family if you can. For example, go for a walk or sit and watch your favorite Christmas movies.
Get Your Questions Answered Now.
Have the Talk
It’s important that friends and family understand you are staying clean and sober. They don’t have to know why if they won’t understand or you’re not ready to tell them yet. Simply alert everyone upfront at a party that you won’t be having any alcohol today. If you’re somewhere where admitting to a previous substance use disorder might negatively affect your reputation, such as at work, you can inform people you’re taking antibiotics for an infection instead.
Why is it important? Vocally informing people will reduce how many times people offer you alcohol, therefore minimizing how often you have to say no.
This also means talking to someone about your substance use disorder. If you attend AA or another group that offers sponsors and sobriety buddies, make sure he or she is on call every time you go out. It’s important to maintain accountability, especially if you’re frequently going out or spending time around people using substances.
Go to Group or Therapy
Whether you’re still going to behavioral therapy and counseling or are attending regular self-help meetings like AA, NA, or SMART, you should continue to go over the holidays. Doing so allows you to maintain social accountability, get more perspective on the cravings you’re experiencing and how your peers feel about the holidays, and have an outlet. Each of these factors can help you stay clean and sober over the holidays.
Here, making time is likely the most difficult aspect. Call your local groups to ask about holiday schedules and fit it in where you can.
Take Care of Yourself
Exercise and nutrition are important aspects of recovery because they affect your mood, happiness, and energy. Try to maintain any exercise regime you already follow. While you obviously won’t be able to stick to an 80% healthy 20% whatever you want diet, you should also ensure that you’re getting enough healthy food to maintain your nutritional needs. This might mean opting for vegetables during dinner, eating as healthy as possible in between holiday meals, and compensating with fruit juice here and there, but you should pay attention to ensure you get enough healthy food.
Regular exercise can help you stay clean and sober by encouraging increased endorphin production, better oxygenation of the body, and better blood flow. However, don’t overdo it. If you don’t have an existing regime in place, try for 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise per day. If you’re going for a walk or skating with friends or family, that’s enough.
Why are you staying clean and sober? Why did you go into recovery? What will you achieve if you continue your sobriety? Chances are, if you look at why you’re sober now, you’ll find plenty of motivation to continue that sobriety. If you’re struggling, you can simply remind yourself and stay on track.
Staying clean and sober over the holidays is more difficult than any other period for a variety of reasons. People expect to have fun and quite often expect that to involve substances. People get depressed and used substances as coping mechanisms. And, we often overload ourselves with stress and responsibilities, and need an outlet. It’s much better to pace yourself, take steps to stay happy and healthy, and to look for outlets in healthy things you enjoy. And, if you do need help, don’t be afraid to seek out additional therapy or whatever else you need to do to maintain your sobriety.
If you or your loved-one is seeking help for substance addiction, call us at (714) 443-8218 and look into our recovery programs. Our Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Huntington Beach helps clients by providing them with addiction intervention services, detox, and residential addiction treatment.
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