Tips For Staying Sober During The Holidays
The idea of staying sober over the holidays can be scary when in early recovery or active addiction. As the holidays quickly approach, so do the holiday parties and family events, both of which can be difficult to navigate. A good goal for these holidays? Instead of focusing your energy on buying presents, focus on being present.
Below are a few ways to help achieve complete sobriety over the holidays. If you are still in active addiction, then you can view this as a test to try and stay sober. If you fail your test, reach out for help as soon as possible. It is safe to say that rehab in Bali is better than losing your job or family. Also remember, staying sober and present during the holidays is a gift to you and your loved ones in itself!
The holidays are full of stresses, such as nagging in-laws and intoxicated co-workers. This combination can set off deep emotional triggers. It is important to take self-care seriously throughout the holidays. Make sure you are sleeping properly, continue to attend recovery meetings, and try to keep over-eating in check. Before attending any holiday event make sure you follow the HALT principle: avoiding being too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. If you have a strong trigger then immediately call a recovery friend!
Choose Events Wisely
Use common sense when attending events: only attend those for which you have a valid reason to go to. In other words, you shouldn’t head to the bar you used to frequent and check up on old drinking buddies or attend their Christmas parties. Likewise, remember that apartment where you know friends will be using? Yes, avoid the Christmas party there too.
If you are very early in recovery or still trying to fight your addiction it might be best to skip some or all of the holiday parties. Only you can be the judge of that, but it would be a good idea to talk to a friend in sobriety and explain the situation and explore the possible triggers.
Above all: remember that you have the power to say NO!
If you want to blend in at the holiday events then there is an easy solution. This technique will work well at any party with an open bar such as a company event, or other dinners or gatherings located in bars or restaurants.
Go up to the bartender and order your diet coke or your soda water with a lime and in a “short” glass. (Hint: if you tip the bartender, they will often remember this throughout the night)
Now, your soft drink looks like a spirit and mixer. Invisibility enabled! Often, no one will ask you if you need a drink while you’re still holding one in your hand.
If you have a family or work tradition to toast with champagne, then bring your own sparkling apple juice with you! There are also alcohol-free products packaged to look like the real thing.
Important note! Make sure you check your drink before you drink it. Take a quick whiff and make sure it’s the non-alcoholic version. You don’t want to make a mistake, drink the wrong drink, and spit your drink out, but if this does happen to you, do exactly that!
Plan Ahead For Interactions
Why do we have to justify not drinking? In today’s society, alcohol is the only drug for which we have to explain a reason for NOT using it. Many people will admit they relapsed because they just didn’t have a good reason to say no. Make sure you formulate your reason in advance.
If you know that annoying co-worker will keep asking you to take that tequila shot then plan a reason why you can’t or won’t. It could be that you’re on antibiotics and can’t mix alcohol. Maybe you have a migraine after a long week and you really just need to take it easy tonight. Whatever excuse you are comfortable with, just make sure you have it prepared ahead of time.
Don’t forget, people love to talk about themselves. If someone is bugging you to drink, then distract them by turning the conversation around to that person: How is your family and work? What have you done lately that you really enjoy? Have you already bought everyone’s Christmas present? Any good surprises? You get the drift…
Form An Exit Strategy
If a co-worker or a family member is persistent, and you feel yourself getting triggered, then politely excuse yourself and go for a walk. If this happens again after you return, then just leave.
If all else fails, make sure you have an exit strategy. This could involve asking a sober friend to call or message you at a pre-arranged time. If you feel you need an excuse to leave then you might explain that a loved one needs your help, or perhaps the neighbor has locked themselves out and you have their spare key.
It is also good to remember when dealing with another intoxicated individual that they might be fighting their own substance abuse battle. Have patience but be firm with your boundaries.
Relatives Are Stressful
When you’re with family it can be extremely taxing and triggering. You might have in-laws that stress you out, other loved ones that have substance abuse problems, or family members that always judge you.
On these occasions, it might be easier to play with the younger kids, help mom in the kitchen, or spend time with the one interesting uncle you never see. Find a task or an opportunity to assist and these distractions will often help alleviate the chances of triggers and stress.
When everyone at the dinner table has a glass of wine in front of them and yours is empty, can you be open and tell them you don’t drink anymore? If you suspect it might become the topic of the night and only make your evening miserable, have a plan!
If you want your recovery journey to remain anonymous then you can use some of the justifications you prepared for your work events. Another justification to share is that you’re still recovering from the last time you drank. This applies to anyone in recovery!
Discuss With Loved Ones
If you have a partner, discuss it with them first and plan your approach together. You might not want your partner telling aunt Gertrude that you’re in AA and not drinking anymore.
It is also helpful to discuss your sobriety with a caring loved one who will understand your journey. This will help alleviate the burden on your shoulders. Often, when you share with honesty, loved ones will be compassionate and share their life battles with you too.
Throughout this process the best advice is to plan ahead and keep sobriety in the forefront of all of your holiday decisions. If you know there is going to be a stressful situation with loved ones then tell a sober friend ahead of time. Ask them to be on-call in case you need sober support during the event.
If you are going to an event that would be socially acceptable to bring a friend then bring another recovery buddy with you. You will probably learn some sober party tips from them too! It is normal to feel uncomfortable; just remember there are plenty of other friends, co-workers, and family members that have similar feelings.
The Whole Picture
If you are still feeling anxious about the holidays then make sure to play through your memory bank. Is it worth getting blacked out and embarrassing yourself at the Christmas party? Is it worth having to sneak away to the bathroom to use at a family event? Is it worth losing your job, getting arrested, or wrecking your family’s holiday?
Many of us have been in that exact same position before. We used to be that annoying co-worker yelling “shots!”, spilling wine on our holiday outfit, or sleeping under the family dining table. Now we have recovery tools and a support system to prevent those horrors from ever happening again.
If you reach the end of the holidays and you have failed your test, or relapsed, please reach out immediately for help. Rehab in Bali might not be such a bad choice if the alternatives are pain and misery! The holidays can be a difficult time but the gift of sobriety is more than worth the effort.