The holidays are here with us. This time of the year is supposed to be peaceful and joyous. However, it can also be a time of sadness, tension, and depression, especially for people struggling with addiction. Feelings of hurt, loss of a loved one, shame, resentment, and guilt about the past can heighten such emotions.


Newly sobers may find it hard to navigate through these situations while living without the substance. Fortunately, the experience of spending quality time with family and having the right support can help to foster a positive environment for recovery. Unfortunately, if you are recovering from substance use, you may also be tempted to break away from your sobriety during the holidays.


While you may seek support from family and friends, take charge of your own sobriety. The holidays should be a reminder and a proof of positive things that can be achieved through serenity, sobriety, and service. Here are tips to help you to navigate through the holidays without a relapse.

Be thankful


Remind yourself of the positive steps you have made and how far you have come in your abstinence journey. The holiday season is the perfect time to reward yourself for your accomplishments. Celebrate the many hurdles you have gone through, no matter how small they may be.


The fact that you have taken actions and have the desire to change your life, even if you have just started your sobriety journey, is a positive step that should empower you to achieve greater things. To keep yourself in the right mindset, list all the positive things in your life, why you fought addiction and many other things you are grateful for.


Make preparations for staying sober


Everyone recovering from substance abuse should have a relapse prevention strategy. In your plan, describe the strategies you are using to support your rehabilitation during the holidays. For instance, if you communicate with your sponsor or a positive friend three times a week, make it seven times a week during the holidays. If you have certain cravings, draw anti-craving strategies. These could include things like reading anti-relapse literature, exercising, calling someone, or even praying.


On top of this, think about each day and fill it with things that empower or bring you joy. If you tend to get lonely, plan to surround yourself with positive people.


As you draw your plan, it is important to be realistic. Sometimes, you may need to be careful especially when some situations depend on the actions of others. It is best to avoid spending time with people who are a bad influence. For example, friends you used to drink together with before your rehab.

Have an escape strategy


Basing on previous holiday experiences, identify potential scenarios that may make you break away from your routine and draw a strategy of how you will respond to each scenario. Think about people that can support you in your journey and the ones who cannot. Also, decide on the things you can talk about and the ones you are not willing to discuss.


You may want to inform people about your situation as most people don’t stigmatize addiction anymore. But if you are not willing to be open about it, find a way to turn down alcohol or drugs. Know and rehearse your response even if it is a fake excuse.


If you are planning to attend social gatherings, always arrive early and depart early. This strategy will help you avoid awkward situations. In most cases, drug and alcohol use is more common as the party continues. Don’t worry about offending the host by arriving early because your sobriety is cardinal.


Mind what you drink


If you are attending social events, chances are that someone will ask you, “Would you like a drink?” It is, therefore, helpful to have a beverage with you to avoid such questions. Sometimes, you may also accidentally choose a wrong drink, only to realize when you have already swallowed. This does not mean that you have a relapse, but replace the drink immediately.


To avoid some of these awkward situations, you can bring your own drinks to social gatherings. This way, you will less likely to fall victim to any mischievous attempt to spike your drink with drug or alcohol. Keep in mind that not everyone will take your rehabilitation seriously.


Share support


Surround yourself with positive people during the holiday season. There are many people who struggle with recovery and who are in need of support. Plan to spend time with such people. When you support others in their struggles, you will take your focus elsewhere, thus paying little attention to your own struggles and shortcomings. As a group, you may even find ways of giving back to the society, for instance, visiting the elderly, volunteering service at your local church or charity, or even spending time with the less fortunate.


Seek help


To avoid being lonely or out of place when you attend social events, bring along a sober friend who understands your situation. If you are traveling out of town, have phone numbers of the right people in your support system.


Support and encouragement comes in handy during tempting times. If you are part of a support group or attending rehab sessions, make sure you do not miss all your routine meetings. Don’t allow the holiday mood to jeopardize your sobriety journey.

Celebrating with a loved one in recovery


If you have a loved one who is trying to overcome substance abuse, give them your support. If your family has holiday practices that don’t help in bringing the family together in a supportive way, make new traditions.


While everyone should treat relapse as serious as it is, watch out not to suffocate the recovering person’s ability to relish his or her moments of glory. Family members need to discuss with recovering loved ones about things that will make them comfortable during the holiday season. Here are a few tips that may help to accommodate recovering individuals during the holiday.


  • Ask the recovering family member if he or she is comfortable taking part in holiday celebrations. Help the person understand that it is okay to miss some events if that is best for his or her recuperation.


  • Find out the beverages that the recovering person prefers. Many recovering individuals may love non-alcoholic cocktails. However, be wary of some drinks because they can be a trigger for the newly sober. Beverages such as hot or iced tea, cocoa, coffee, or hotly spiced cedar are safer options.


  • Ask if the person would like to invite a friend who does not drink. Sometimes, recovering persons love to spend time with another recovering friend or someone who understands their situation, especially in social gatherings where alcohol is served.

Enjoy the holidays


Being the time for celebrations, don’t let your struggles prevent you from enjoying your holiday. Take it easy and celebrate your sobriety in style. Find activities that help you connect with body, mind, and spirit. Maintain your exercise routine, have plenty of rest, pray, and watch what you eat. Maintaining sobriety will help you experience the true spirit the holiday. Don’t be afraid to seek support when you feel overwhelmed and always keep communication lines open.

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