While most people view the holidays as a joyful time, they (the holidays) can prove to be difficult for someone in recovery for substance abuse. The holidays lead to stress, expectations, bad memories, and shopping pressures, to name just a few of the potential negatives. If you’ve dealt with previous holidays by drinking or using drugs, you might be reluctant to attend a holiday party.
Here are some of the things that can help you cope with the holidays in recovery, especially if you’ve been invited to an event where there might be social drinking:
You might be told that a party will be alcohol free, but find an altogether different situation upon showing up. Prepare beforehand for this possibility. If alcohol is a trigger for you, you don’t want to spend unnecessary time around it. Make sure you have a ride secured to go home. Don’t commit to giving others a ride home — that could mean that you have to stay longer than intended. There are other people, and other rides. Your number one priority should be your sobriety.
Know Before You Go
Don’t be quick to accept an invitation. What are the details of the event you’re going to? Don’t be afraid to ask what the event is really all about. Going without knowing could lead you to a bad situation that could ultimately threaten your recovery. No party or event is worth throwing away your hard work and accomplishments.
Make Escape Plans
Avoiding family conflict at the holidays is very important to maintain your sobriety, as familial arguments can be very overwhelming. If you are suddenly confronted with an emotionally charged situation or trigger, take a deep breath. Try not to react. If you are able, find a way to leave immediately. You might feel guilty for leaving, but don’t. Holidays are emotionally intense for many people. The best plan is an evacuation plan, rather than trying to figure out how to put out the flames yourself.
Bring a Sober Friend
In the event that you decide to go to a party where there will be alcohol served, try to bring a sober friend. Having support with you decreases the likelihood that you will give into a craving. Make sure that you aren’t fooling yourself. What is the real reason you want to go to the party? What role does alcohol play? Is it the main event? These specificities matter.
Ground Yourself Firmly in Your Recovery
How long have you been in recovery? While it may seem that you are at higher risk as a newbie, being more settled into recovery can be equally as dangerous. The longer you’ve been in recovery, the more likely you are to get complacent. Remind yourself why you are sober. Make sure you are routinely practicing self-care. This is a time that you should be as strong as ever in your recovery plan. Go to meetings. Meditate.
Don’t Let the Emotions of the Holidays Lead You Back to Old Haunts
It’s easy to get swept away with holiday emotions and to wax nostalgic about the past. Perhaps you remember fondly that time you and a friend had a sweet time decorating the house for the holidays. But if that friend is also a friend you used to use with, there is a good chance you are only fooling yourself. Do not return to old haunts. You are only asking for trouble.
You Can Get through This
It is not only possible to get to January still sober, but also to have a good time doing it. Attending the holiday parties will require a little planning on your part, but you can do this if you stay vigilant and plan ahead.
Make your recovery your priority above anything else and avoid any possible triggers. Take care of yourself; do not let the normal things you do everyday to keep you sober fall by the wayside. People in the same boat as you might notice the positive changes you’ve made to your life — share your story with those who are willing, and maybe you’ll help change someone else’s life as well.
Crystal Hampton is a 37-year-old avid writer from South Florida. She loves snuggling with her teacup Yorkie Gator and boyfriend Adam. She works for a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.
Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis
Bachelors in Elementary Education