Sober holidays can be difficult, for a variety of reasons. Not only are you under stress, but you may be asked to put yourself in an environment that is triggering for you. Alcohol is everywhere during the holidays, and not everyone may understand what a sober holiday really is. Staying sober during the holidays is going to require a lot of work, and a lot of preparation.
Let Your Family Know You’re Having Sober Holidays
Your friends and family need to be on your side. If they don’t know you’re trying to stay sober, they may unthinkingly introduce alcohol to your environment. If anyone is less than respectful about your sobriety, you don’t need to continue to interact with them. By letting your support system know about your sober holidays, they’ll be able to warn you in advance if alcohol will be present, and watch you for any signs you’re under stress.
It can be difficult to have these types of conversations with your friends and family, but it’s critical if you’re going to be around them. For some, friends and family can be triggers for substance abuse in and of themselves, and that has to be addressed.
Take Some Time for Yourself
Holidays are naturally stressful. People are traveling, spending a lot of money, and trying to juggle a lot of things. Don’t forget to take some time for yourself during the holiday season, even if that means that you might need to miss an event or two. It’s best not to push yourself too hard.
Contact Your Sponsor
If you have a sponsor, you may want to connect with them during the holidays or ask if there are meetings that you can go to. If you don’t have a sponsor or don’t feel as though this would be effective, you may want to connect a treatment center. At a treatment center, you can sit in on group therapy events, or go one-on-one with a therapist when you feel vulnerable.
Be Mindful of Your Triggers
There are a lot of things that can prompt someone to drink. Sometimes it’s something as simple as being back in your old town, or in your family home. If you know that there are certain triggers that prompt you to drink, you need to be aware of them and avoid them. Consider whether your family or old friends could potentially cause you to drink more.
The majority of holiday drinking tends to occur during holiday parties, so you may want to avoid these entirely if you have a history of being at them while not being sober. Be mindful of your mood. If you start to feel as though sobriety is wearing at you, it’s time to stop, think about your sober strategy, and reach out to your support network.
Have an Exit Strategy
During the holidays, it’s easy to end up feeling “trapped.” You might be at a family member’s home, or at a friend’s holiday party. When you go into locations that could have alcohol or other temptations, have an exit strategy. Have a friend who will immediately leave with you, or make arrangements so that you can leave separately.
Learn Some Coping Mechanisms
Many people turn to substance abuse or to drinking during the holidays as a way of managing or mitigating their existing stress. Going over coping mechanisms with a therapist can help you find healthier ways to deal with this stress, and consequently better ways to enjoy your sober holidays. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be a helpful way of refocusing and reframing, without losing your sobriety.
Keep Yourself Busy
If you’re stressed or anxious, keeping yourself busy can be a great way of grounding yourself. Stay sober for the holidays by packing your schedule with things that you enjoy, from shopping to a day out with your family. When you feel as though you might relapse, you can instead visit with your therapist, and take up a different activity entirely.