The holiday season can be stressful for various reasons, such as financial strain and awkward social gatherings. For people in recovery, the holidays can be especially challenging. Stress, relationship issues and loneliness are common relapse triggers that individuals in recovery may have to face during the holidays. Also, friends or family members might offer celebratory drinks or drugs, making it more difficult to stay sober.
Although it isn’t easy, it is possible to stay on track with your recovery even when stress takes a toll. With the right plan in place, you may even find yourself enjoying life’s sweet moments during special occasions. Here are a few tips to help you stay sober during the holidays.
1. Avoid Tempting Situations
If certain situations may tempt you to use drugs or alcohol, know that it’s OK to say “no” to attending a holiday party and to put your hard-earned sobriety first. If you’re worried you’ll hurt loved ones’ feelings by skipping an event, be honest with them and let them know you’re having a difficult time. Tell them how they can support you.
You can still have a fulfilling and joyous holiday season if you avoid parties or other events. Consider replacing tempting situations with any of the following recovery-friendly activities:
- Bake holiday cookies: One of the greatest joys of the holiday season is spending time with friends or family in the kitchen. Gather your loved ones and some ingredients, decorations and cookie cutters, and cherish a day of making sweet memories.
- Get active: Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and negative emotions, bond with loved ones and enjoy the winter weather. Get outside and go sledding, skiing, snowboarding or ice fishing, or participate in other fun wintertime activities.
- Serve others: According to research, helping others and having a supportive social network can increase the chance of staying sober by up to 50 percent. If you’re looking for ways to beat isolation, boredom or loneliness during the holidays while staying sober, consider volunteering your time to those in need.
2. Plan Ahead
If you feel obligated to go to the office Christmas party or wouldn’t miss your family gathering for anything in the world, be aware of the risks before you leave and plan accordingly. Take a look at these tips for maintaining your sobriety at holiday events:
- Bring a sober friend: Attend the party with a sober friend for support and to hold you accountable for your actions. If a supportive friend cannot go with you, ask them if they can be “on call” if you need someone to talk to.
- Grab a prop: After you arrive at a party, grab a non-alcoholic drink right away. This will keep people from offering you an alcoholic beverage and help you stay on track. You’ll also want to plan a response in case someone insists you have a drink. For example, you might say you can’t have alcohol due to your medication or that you don’t drink anymore. If they continue to pressure you, simply walk away.
- Have an exit plan: Be prepared to leave if you start to feel too stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated or uncomfortable. This may include having your own transportation and making sure your car isn’t blocked by other vehicles. Also, avoid volunteering to be a designated driver — otherwise, you may get stuck waiting for the party to end. Plan to get there early and leave early if possible.
- Know your triggers: Everyone has different triggers. Triggers refer to people, objects, places or situations that prompt a drug or alcohol craving. Before you head to a holiday event, make sure you’ve identified your triggers and have a plan for coping with them in case they arise. Remember, there’s no need to test yourself. For example, if you know being around your cousin will make you want to drink, it’s probably best to skip the party. You’ll also be able to manage triggers better if you’re taking care of your body and mind.
3. Stick to a Routine
Having a routine has many benefits, such as lowering stress levels, encouraging healthy habits and helping you focus on your recovery. The holidays can be a hectic time, so it’s essential to stick to your regular routine as much as possible to avoid feeling overwhelmed and keep self-care a priority.
Having structure in your life can also keep you from feeling bored or experiencing other negative emotions that could otherwise trigger a relapse. While you should customize your routine to meet your unique needs, try to save time for the following elements every day — whether it’s the holidays or any time of the year:
- Exercise: Exercise is critical to maintaining physical and mental health. Always save time in your schedule for exercise, and choose activities you enjoy, such as walking, swimming or weightlifting.
- Eating healthy: Make sure you have time in your schedule to prepare or enjoy healthy meals, even during the holidays. Eating healthy will help your body recover from the effects of addiction and keep you feeling in control of your health.
- Sleep: Getting adequate sleep will help you make the right choices when you encounter challenges. Stick to a regular bedtime and wake-up time, and adhere to a relaxing nightly ritual such as reading or taking a warm shower before bed.
- Hobbies: Hobbies can keep you engaged, bring joy into your life and reduce stress. Choose something fun or fulfilling for you, such as blogging or volunteering in your community.
- Support: Staying sober during the holidays isn’t easy, and that’s why it’s important to stay connected with supportive individuals who understand what you’re going through. Make time to attend support groups or counseling sessions regularly, and if you need help, don’t hesitate to ask.
AppleGate Recovery Can Help
Despite the challenges, it is possible to stay sober during the holidays, and it can be fun and rewarding to spend quality time with those who support your recovery. However, if you or a loved one struggle to maintain sobriety no matter what you try, you don’t have to overcome addiction alone. At AppleGate Recovery, we can help you during every season of the year.
AppleGate Recovery is an opioid addiction treatment center with multiple locations throughout the United States. We provide comprehensive medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction with Suboxone® and buprenorphine, as well as counseling and compassionate support. We understand that addiction is a disease that takes courage to overcome, and we’re prepared to help you or your loved one take the first step. To learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment, please contact us today.