Your first year of recovery will be full of many challenges, including how to best celebrate the holidays as someone who is newly sober.
The risk of relapse is higher during this time, but remaining vigilant about your recovery will help you stay on the right track.
Focus on What Brings You Joy
There are only so many hours in the day, which means it’s often impossible to handle every holiday-related task that might pop up. Stress is a common trigger for relapse, so it’s a smart move to streamline your celebration to put the focus on what you enjoy the most.
If you hate traveling, consider skipping the trip to Aunt Edna’s house and celebrating Thanksgiving with your spouse and children at home. If baking isn’t your thing, buy your Christmas cookies from the store and spend your extra time decorating, watching Christmas movies, or viewing the light displays in your neighborhood. If shopping for gifts is too time-consuming, consider initiating a new family tradition of one grab bag gift or a shared experience such as going to a special holiday concert together.
There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to celebrate the holidays. Your sobriety has given you a new lease on life, so now is the perfect time to makeover your celebration so it best fits your new lifestyle.
Avoid Known Triggers
Alcohol is commonly served at social events during the holidays, so you’ll need to think carefully about whether this presents a problem for you. If you’re feeling confident in your sobriety, bringing your own beverage and politely refusing alcoholic drinks may be a good option. However, if you’re in the early stages of recovery and worried about how you’ll handle the situation, it may be safest to simply decline the invitation.
Certain people may also act as triggers. If you know that Uncle John is going to say unkind things about your past, your cousin Jake is going to want to reminisce about the days when you were using together, or your friend Miranda is going to pressure you to have a glass of wine with her, it may be best to pass on attending events where these individuals will be present.
Plan for the Unexpected
Avoiding situations that present a high risk of threatening your sobriety is one thing, but it’s not always possible to determine how an event will unfold. Before you agree to attend a holiday party, think about how you’ll handle uncomfortable situations that may pop up. This might include attending with a sober friend who can keep you accountable, driving yourself so you have a ride home, or planning an excuse in advance to allow you to leave if you don’t feel comfortable.
Role playing with your sponsor or a supportive friend is a good way to boost your confidence in handling tricky situations. You can practice ways to refuse a drink at a party, how to share your recovery story, and what to do when someone is unsupportive of your sobriety.
Make Time for Meetings
One thing that streamlining the holidays doesn’t mean is taking time away from any 12-Step or support group meetings you’ve been attending. Meetings provide a vital source of support and accountability, especially during the busyness of the holiday season.
If you’ve decided that you’ll be traveling during the holidays, look up meetings in the area where you’ll be staying. It’s also a good idea to check in with your sponsor periodically while you’re away from home to reinforce your commitment to recovery.
Maintain Healthy Habits
During the holidays, it’s tempting to skimp on sleep, avoid the gym, and indulge in fatty or sugary treats. However, sticking to the healthy habits you delivered in treatment will help stabilize your mood and give you the energy you need to get through the holiday season. Aim to keep a regular sleep schedule, get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, and eat balanced meals with lean protein, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
If you do slip up, keep in mind that a single mistake doesn’t mean you have to abandon the progress you’ve made. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that tomorrow is another day.
Remember You’re Not the Only One Who Is Struggling
If you’re feeling less than festive this holiday season, know that you’re not alone. The holidays are difficult for many people, even those who aren’t in recovery. Strained family relationships, a jam-packed travel schedule, financial difficulties, or the recent death of a loved one are just some of the many issues that can be stressors during the holiday season.
Reminding yourself that other people may also be having difficulty getting into the holiday spirit can help take away some of the pressure to have a picture-perfect celebration. In fact, some of the changes you make to how you choose to celebrate the season may also benefit your loved ones by taking away unrealistic expectations.