How to Stay Sober during the festive season

The holidays are a challenging time for those in recovery and can often fill one with a sense of dread. It’s the season for social gatherings and festivities, and the festivities are often accompanied by alcohol and drugs. It’s a challenge to stay sober and have fun when you are accustomed to drinking or using in social environments – especially over the holidays.

It can fill one with a sense of anxiety and fear trying to pre-empt triggers. It’s important to do things that boost your serotonin – eat healthy foods, exercise, meditate, play with your pets.

Learn how to say NO. By constantly saying yes to everything, one can feel resentment and further stress. Don’t overload yourself with a million activities – when you need time out, take a break.

It’s important to make your sobriety your top priority. If you feel a holiday function is not a good idea for your sobriety, then politically decline. Don’t feel obliged to say yes to everything.

Preparation is key! It’s important to put plans in place to safeguard your sobriety. One always needs to remain mindful of triggers when in recovery. This is even more evident during the holiday season.

While there are several helpful tips that may help you change your mindset and approach, it’s also vital to have some practical tools at your disposal to help you navigate the festive season, while remaining sober.

Some Helpful Tips:

  1. Maintain a solid support system of healthy friends, family and people in recovery. Reach out to someone in the program or a sponsor if you feel anxious or triggered.
  2. Keep up with your daily affirmations and try put time aside once a week to do your step work – working with a sponsor or friend in recovery is important.
  3. Participate in healthy outdoor activities. Take up running, go to a yoga class, the gym or go hiking with a group of sober friends. Even taking your dog for a walk, helps to clear your mind and stay in the present. It’s more important than ever to stay in the present and be mindful – enjoy every moment of the day.
  4. Schedule in and attend as many NA and AA meetings as possible during this period. Reach out to a sponsor. If you are visiting family in a different city, check out the meeting schedule beforehand and schedule in meetings that side. Being away from your regular recovery support system can make you especially vulnerable to relapse.
  5. Make a list of things you enjoy doing without partaking in alcohol and drugs – baking, decorating the Christmas tree, outdoor activities.
  6. Don’t always feel obligated to spend time with people who are not good for your mental health. If there are family members or people that are especially toxic or triggering, say no or turn down invitations if you are able to do so. It’s not always possible, but be mindful to put your sanity and sobriety first. Know your limits with certain family members.
  7. Be selective with the events you choose to go to. If you do go out to social functions, take a “support buddy” with you to give you a gentle nudge if you are straying off the sober path or having any inclinations to get “festive”. Or take your own car so you can leave when you want to.
  8. You don’t always need to give people an in-depth answer of why you don’t drink. If you feel comfortable enough, tell people you are in recovery. Alternatively, you can say you don’t drink for health reasons. Use a non-alcoholic drink as a prop – when people are drunk, they’ll hardly notice it’s a sparkling water and not a glass of champagne.
  9. Address your potential emotional triggers before time, such as: having lost a loved one over the holidays, coming out of a painful relationship or complicated family dynamics.
  10. Focus on Self Care – take care of your body, mind and soul. Eat healthy foods, meditate, do yoga. Healthy outdoor activities and exercise.
  11. Acts of service: When we take the focus off ourselves and focus on those less fortunate, it gives us a purpose. There are various ways you can do service within your community. Get involved in charity work: volunteer at a soup kitchen or your local animal shelter.
  12. Spring Cleaning: Clear out all the clutter in your house – throw out old clothes or things you no longer need and donate them to charity. Giving to the less fortunate will fill up your heart and clearing out old things from your old life when you were actively using, will create a shift and bring renewed energy into your life.
  13. Create new traditions. Organize a holiday feast with your sober friends.
  14. Maintain your spiritual connection to source.
  15. Focus on the positive. Celebrate the healthy, happy relationships in your life and open yourself to meet other like-minded people during the holidays.


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