6 Ways to Maintain Your Recovery During the Holiday Season

As the holiday season approaches, the temptation to use increases.

Posted Nov 16, 2020

One has to be cautious of holiday celebrations
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As the holiday season approaches, we are reminded of all the fond memories that are associated with them. Memories such as that favorite toy that we received as a child, a certain food that was cooked only during the holiday season (mine was my grandmother's walnut brownies), or even a favorite show that would come on during the holidays — with the reminder that we would shoot our eye out with that Red Ryder BB gun.

However, for people with substance use disorder, the holidays can be seen as something that can be harmful to them if they are not careful. I know that for myself, there has always been alcohol around and I had family and friends who would drink. This was always a concern to me as I was in recovery. I was always worried that someone would offer me a drink and that one drink would cause me to go back to wanting to use on a regular basis.

So how does someone in recovery deal with the holidays? With nearly 30 years of sobriety under my belt, I have to admit that I have had to come up with a variety of ways to deal with others using around me. I want to share with you a list of six ways that you can deal with sobriety during the holidays.

The best way to avoid relapse is to prepare yourself
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1. Start preparing for the holidays in advance:

One way that an individual can survive the holidays without giving into his or her urges and cravings is to be prepared for them. If your family tradition is to have a toast with alcohol such as wine, then you need to have an alternative to drink. Most importantly, be honest with your family and friends. Let the individuals who are in charge of the toast know that you cannot have any form of alcohol and ask if they would pour you a nonalcoholic drink (for example, white grape juice) so that you can still be a part of the activities without giving into your cravings. There may be some who feel the same way you do and follow suit with not drinking alcohol or you may even start a new tradition regarding the beverage used for the toast.

2. Have someone who is sober be with you during this time:

Having an individual who is sober and willing to hold you accountable is vital for your recovery efforts. While it may seem strange to invite someone your family does not know during the holidays, having them help you maintain your sobriety should be your number one concern at this moment.  This could be someone who is in your support system of friends or even your sponsor. I think that it is vital that this be an individual who has had a sustained period of recovery of a minimum of at least two years of continuous sobriety. If you take someone who is new to recovery themselves, then this could prove to be dangerous for both yourself and your friend.

3. Go to a meeting:

One of the ways that you can be prepared for your upcoming celebrations is to go to a meeting, especially if you are traveling during the holidays. Not only will a meeting boost your morale, but it will also allow you to properly deal with those urges and cravings. If you are away from your home meeting, do your research and contact a meeting in the new area to find out what time their meeting starts so that you know where to go and what time to be there if the urges and cravings hit.

4. Plan for activities outside of the festivities:

If you are going to be visiting family for a period of time during the holidays, start planning activities outside of the family function. Activities such as going to a movie, going to a meeting (see #3) taking a walk, or taking a drive looking at the Christmas lights are just a few suggestions of what to do instead of just sitting around with nothing to do and becoming bored and complacent as this could lead you back to wanting to use.

5. Set up a therapy session:

One of the most dangerous times for someone with substance use disorder is the holidays. Depression and anxiety are strong contributing factors in individuals relapsing and falling back down the path of alcoholism and substance abuse. If you are prone to negative emotions during the holidays, set up an appointment with a therapist to be able to establish a game plan when the urges and cravings creep into your thought process. I would suggest planning a session prior to the holidays so that you have someone to talk to and then again after the holidays to recap how that plan went, both good and bad.

6. Develop an escape plan:

If you find yourself in a negative situation or the intensity becomes too much, remove yourself from the problem. There is no harm in allowing yourself an out if the urges and the cravings become unbearable. Once again be honest and tell the individuals you are with that you do not feel comfortable and that you need to excuse yourself. By allowing yourself to be upfront, you will not be someone who must lie to get themselves out of a negative environment.

By allowing yourself to properly be prepared for the holidays, you are more likely to be successful in navigating your emotions. As the years in recovery increase, you will be able to gain a sense of being able to enjoy the festivities without having to worry about the chances of a relapse. Here’s to a happy and sober holiday season.

Taking Recovery One Day at a Time (10, 547 Days and Counting)

 © Michael J. Rounds