Staying Sober at Christmas
For many of us, the Christmas holidays are a season of peace and joy, where we decorate our memories with calm and happy moments. But the reality often looks quite different and the additional holiday stressors can quickly pile up for the person in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, making it a difficult time of year to stay sober.
There is often an unrealistic expectation of ‘the perfect Christmas’ from family members and they frequently demand every ounce of your time and energy—and patience. The festive season food menu is a never-ending load, and traveling can be a strain on time, as well as your wallet. And then of course, there’s liquid lunches and glasses of champagne upon arrival. Everyone is running at full speed, and the annual family dispute is bubbling away under the surface…
As well as the additional things that are going on, it might be that simultaneously your support network falls apart. Travelling or other commitments might mean you can’t attend your home group recovery meeting, and your sponsor is less available.
Don’t despair – it’s Christmas after all! So, to help you navigate the festivities, here are seven tips and strategies that will prepare you for the holidays, avoid uncomfortable situations and relapse – and you might even find it to be the season of joy!
- Have an escape plan
Christmas parties and family gatherings can quickly turn into alcohol fuelled events and people are likely to offer you drinks. These people don’t always like to accept ‘no’ as an answer. Plan ahead for uncomfortable situations and triggering environments – and always have an escape plan ready.
- Have a reason for not drinking in mind before you go (driving home, having a dry month or attending an early meeting in the morning).
- Call your sponsor or close friend before and after the event.
- When accepting the invitation, explain that you will need to get away by a certain time.
2. Have realistic expectations
Speak with a sober friend or sponsor about the emotions and expectations you have wrapped up in the Christmas and New Year holidays. Don’t overthink things or assume you will get along with everyone. You don’t have to go to every event; you don’t have to stay until the end of every function. It is important not to get triggered.
Think about what is realistic for you and strive for that while knowing that we aim for progress not perfection. Also remember that you can’t control other people, the weather and external events so if things don’t go as planned, it’s not your fault.
- Be of service
Look for every opportunity to be of service. Serve a meal at a homeless shelter, reach out to a newcomer at a meeting, spend time with an elderly loved one or neighbour. There are a million different ways to give back, pay it forward and be of service, and each opportunity guides you further away from resentment, self-pity and fear.
- Be proud of your non-alcoholic drinks
At family gatherings and social events, offer around your favourite non-alcoholic drink. This subtly lets people know you are drinking non-alcoholic drinks so they will be less inclined to offer you anything alcoholic.
- Remember you have choices
If you know that your aunt is going to mix you a stiff drink, stay away from her. If the office New Year’s party is really all about drinking or other drug use, make a brief appearance or don’t stay. If your neighbour is going to interrogate you about why you’re not drinking, explain that you have other plans.
It’s unrealistic in all of these scenarios to say, “I can soldier through it.” This is your Christmas too, it needn’t become a sobriety obstacle course. Staying sober and safeguarding your recovery must always come first.
- Practice self-care
Celebrate the holiday season and celebrate having gratitude for your sober life by taking time for yourself. Proper nutrition, gentle exercise and restorative sleep can do wonders for your well-being. The better you feel physically, the stronger you will be emotionally.
New Years Day is a great time to nourish your spirit with personal reflection of the last year and visualizations of the next 12 months and your connections with those you love. Find some quiet time for relaxation and meditation—if only for a few minutes, no matter how busy you are.
- If you know you need treatment for alcoholism or addiction, make the decision to reach out for help
Some families might consider the holidays an inappropriate time to help a loved one get into addiction treatment when, in fact, it could be an ideal opportunity. For many of the reasons mentioned earlier, substance abuse and drinking tend to ramp up over the holidays. Addiction treatment initiated during the holidays could be the best gift you give to your family, your friends and yourself.
Inpatient Care and Rehab at The Lighthouse Bali
At The Lighthouse Bali, our programs include a medical detox for those who require it. A medical detox is the safest and most comfortable way to detox from drugs and alcohol.
The Lighthouse Bali’s proven combination of an initial Primary Inpatient Program* followed by Outpatient Care and Ongoing Therapy has helped alcoholics and addicts from around the world get their lives back on track. Through individually tailored treatment, professional therapy, and compassionate support, you will be given the tools you need to ensure the best possible chances of a long term recovery.
If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, we urge you to reach out and contact us in confidence. Our private programs are tailormade to suit individual needs and our doctorate level clinical staff have extensive experience in the field of addiction. If you are not currently in Bali but would like to begin a recovery program immediately, we are able to arrange entry visas for Bali on your behalf.
To talk to one of our team members, contact us on WhatsApp or by Phone. Alternatively, send us an email and we will either answer your questions in writing or call you back, according to your preference – contact us.
We understand how difficult it can be to reach out for help but it’s the first step towards recovery and a happier, healthier way of living.
*1 The duration of Primary Inpatient Programs and Outpatient Care varies according to individual circumstances. Both Inpatient and Outpatient treatment is based around monthly (28 day) increments. As a general guideline we recommend between one to three months Primary Inpatient Programs, followed by one to two months Outpatient Care in Bali, and up to six months of ongoing therapy (by Zoom or Skype from home). The longer you stay in rehab, the better your chances of staying clean and sober when you return home.