One of the easiest ways to slip from sobriety and relapse is to combine stressful situations with access to alcohol. Holiday parties and gatherings with friends, family, and co-workers often include alcohol. Complicating matters is the stress level many experience during the holidays. Old family habits and behaviors can quickly become drug-triggers under the right circumstances. Staying sober over the holidays takes preparedness to address the common stressors arising out of the holiday as well as cravings generated from exposure to alcohol. Make this holiday sane, sober, and special with the following strategies.
Strategies For Coping With Holiday Stress
Family can be our greatest supports or the most dysfunctional aspect of our relationships with others. Since most of us land somewhere in between, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself for the anticipated stresses as well as those that might arise up during visits with family, holiday parties, and other festivities. Greeting the holiday season with positive coping strategies is the best way to honor our sobriety.
Spending time with family can stir up old emotions, unresolved feelings, and stress. To complicate matters, there are expectations that we must remain joyful during the season. However, for someone recently out of treatment, much about their lives and relationships has changed while the majority of the family structure remains the same. This juxtaposition can be a positive force, or leave someone full of dreadful anticipation. In any case, one positive way to cope with the gambit of emotions that can arise during the holidays is to acknowledge what you’re feeling.
In acknowledging feelings, you don’t have to tag each feeling with a specific event or person it appears tied to. Instead, find a quiet space to identify the feeling and focus on letting it pass. This simple act can reduce stress and anxiety and can help replace the negative feeling with one of calm.
In addition to the availability of alcohol, the holidays are filled with shifting schedules and sugary treats. Changes in sleep and the addition of sugar to your diet can lead you to feel less than optimal. Eating right and making sure you get enough rest is one way to avoid illness and feel better.
If you’re newly out of treatment, keep your holiday plans simple. Stress isn’t always associated with negative activity. Sometimes just involving yourself in too many family gatherings, hosting too large a party, or committing to too many activities can lead to stress. Choosing to involve yourself in those activities and events that are most meaningful to you can help you reduce the stress many associate with this time of the year.
Even when surrounded by friends and family, it’s still possible to feel isolated or alone during the holidays. This isolation comes most often from expectations and unhealthy comparisons. If you’ve recently left treatment and find yourself staring down the annual holiday letter outlining all of the recent achievements of your nephew Jimmy, and the incredible career milestones of Jimmy’s parents, it’s easy to feel inadequate. But how can you compare a 3.5 middle school GPA to the incredible achievement of sobriety?
Comparing your life to the lives of others’ or the life you had prior to the addiction, serves no real positive function. These comparisons or expectations can leave us feeling deflated and depressed or anxious. Instead, make time for gratitude. Whether at a family gathering or seated quietly at home, take time each day to celebrate your achievements and acknowledge gratitude.
Others feel alone at the holidays because they are far away from friends or family or still working on repairing relationships damaged during the addiction. Seek activities that surround you with other people. Local support groups sometimes host alcohol-free holiday events. This is a great way to connect with new people and engage in activities free from the temptation of alcohol or drug-use. The holidays are also a good time to attend meetings and stay connected with your counselor or sponsor for additional support.
Combat isolation or holiday sadness by getting involved with an activity outside of your normal routine. Whether attending a church service, joining a choir or hobby-related group, volunteering at a shelter, or taking time to visit an elderly friend or relative, a connection with others can elevate your mood and reduce feelings of loneliness and cravings for alcohol.
Holiday Parties And Gatherings
In our society, alcohol is often brought to gatherings or parties in addition to food and other beverages. Even when people are asked not to bring alcohol, someone might overlook the request and bring it unwittingly. The best way to address this aspect of the holidays is to plan ahead not only with how to handle these situations, but also in terms of how you cope with stresses or temptations of the “just taste” or “take a sip” scenarios that sometimes arise.
To reduce your chances of being in close proximity with alcohol, you may consider one of two options. The first is to host your own gathering free of alcohol. You can even keep a booze box at the door that is covered, in case someone brings alcohol by mistake. They can take it home at the end of the night.
Another way to avoid alcohol is to request that family gatherings or parties hosted by close friends remain alcohol free for all or in part. If this is not possible, you can reduce your exposure by attending a gathering with a close support person or your sponsor. Staying for a shorter duration or attending with an appropriate exit strategy in place is a good way to avoid becoming vulnerable to temptation.
Sobriety is a precious status. Be honest and forthright when necessary. Good friends and healthy co-workers and family will understand and accommodate you to the best of their ability.
Medication Assisted Sobriety
If your concerns over sobriety are causing a lot of anxiety, you might consider talking with your doctor about a drug like Antabuse, which alters how your body metabolizes alcohol. The drug is effective in helping people avoid alcohol because the physical consequences of using while taking the drug are so severe. This drug has shown effectiveness when used over long durations and may be a great way to assist in your overall recovery plan.
Tips on Staying Sober During the Holidays
- Acknowledge your feelings
- Stay healthy
- Simplify activities
- Find time for gratitude
- If alone, get involved
- Host an alcohol-free event
- Attend parties with a support person
- Be honest and forthright about your recovery
- Consider medication assisted sobriety
Let Sobriety Be Your Gift This Season
Are you suffering from an addiction to alcohol? Give yourself the gift of recovery this season by taking that first step and asking for help. Getting clean from alcohol can be an enormous challenge, but you need not do it alone. AlcoholTreatment.net can connect you with the online resources, professional support, and comprehensive treatment options that will work with your individual needs. Contact us and speak with someone in confidence today and discover why sobriety is the greatest gift you can give yourself.