Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays 

in Addiction
Published Dec 18, 2020
tips for staying sober during the holidays
While people who might have been in recovery for a while look forward to the holidays, it can be a little daunting for those new to recovery. It is the season for cheer and that often means the booze will be abundant and we’ll probably overcommit ourselves. Before you know it you’re exhausted, irritable, and wanting time out. These are states that can prove challenging to maintain recovery. We’ve listed our top tips for staying sober during the holidays so that you can prepare yourself, set healthy boundaries, and ultimately, safeguard your recovery.

Top Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays

This list is by no means definitive — they are suggestions that have worked for many in recovery. What’s key here is that you pick what works best for you and your circumstances. The goal is to keep calm, relaxed, and enjoy the holidays.
  • Set healthy boundaries. An important aspect of recovery is setting healthy boundaries. That might mean not overcommitting yourself, telling your family you will only attend a party for two hours, not engaging in situations that can be emotionally draining, staying away from exes, or not going to bars with your friends. Remember that the only person you need to explain your boundaries to is yourself!
  • Prepare to answer the question about why you don’t drink. We wrote a helpful blog, How to Tell Your Friends and Family You Don’t Drink, that you might find a helpful resource. Remember that you only need to decline a drink and don’t owe anyone an explanation.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “no.” It’s helpful to know that the word “no” is a complete sentence. Many people in recovery feel the need to explain themselves or even overcompensate for our lives when we were actively using substances, but the reality is that you don’t have to do anything other than politely decline. That could be a drink, an invitation to a party, or anything else that you don’t feel comfortable with.
  • Pick events wisely. You don’t have to attend every party that you are invited to. It’s important to maintain wellness in recovery and overdoing it can lead to fatigue, overwhelm, and making unhealthy choices. If you do feel overwhelmed, check out our recent blog, 8 Tips to Cope with Holiday Overwhelm.
  • Serve yourself at parties. Sometimes it isn’t worth the risk at placing your sobriety in someone else’s hands. They may forget and add alcohol to your soda, or your drinks might get switched in error. Don’t take the risk and make the drink or visit the bar yourself.
  • Stay connected with your sober network. It’s always helpful to stay connected with a network of sober friends. They too will be experiencing the holidays and may be able to share their coping strategies or just be a person that can listen to you. Staying connected keeps recovery, and your relationships, at the forefront of your priorities.
  • Have a trigger/cravings plan. Triggers happen in recovery. It could be an old memory, a familiar feeling, a person you used to drink or use with, or an emotional state. They can all cause you to feel triggered and can lead to cravings. Know your triggers and have a plan in place to deal with them. That could include leaving, calling a friend, taking time out, meditation and breathing exercises, or heading to a meeting.
  • Make an exit plan. It’s always smart to drive to a party and park close by but make sure you’re not blocked in. You can tell people in advance that you won’t be staying all night but you can always leave whenever you like, even if that’s after being there for five minutes.
  • Avoid known risks. If you feel triggered by attending bars, or being around certain people then it’s perfectly fine to avoid these situations during a time when you might already feel triggered.
  • Prioritize your well-being. That means getting a decent amount of sleep each night (7-9 hours is optimum), drinking plenty of water, keeping stress low, and exercising regularly. The holiday is a time when we can let these routines go and while that’s okay to take a break, it can lead to you not feeling your best.
  • Plan sober activities. You don’t have to celebrate the holidays by sitting down at a party the whole time. You can plan socially-distanced sober activities, like a walk, outdoor activities, online meetings, learning something new, or even crafting with sober buddies.
  • Check-in before attending a party. It’s always smart to take a pulse check before going to a party. Ask yourself how you feel physically and emotionally. If you’re tired or stressed consider how you would feel not attending a party — if that elicits a feeling of calm then maybe you don’t go. It’s absolutely okay to cancel at the last minute. Remember your wellbeing is more important than someone’s feelings or expectations.
  • Limit time with family and friends that you know can be challenging. If you know that a particular family member can be triggering then its fine to avoid them. Think of it as preserving your well-being!

Maintain recovery plans

Just like well-being, the holiday season can be a time when we slack on meetings, or other recovery commitments. Again, it’s fine to take a break from time-to-time, but recovery is maintained by keeping up with recovery activities such as meetings, recovery networks, therapy, or whatever your chosen pathway. It’s helpful to be mindful of letting recovery priorities slip.

  • Make your own holiday plans. You don’t have to attend any party. You could go on vacation (post COVID-19, of course). Or have a staycation and cook for yourself or partner at home. In fact, you don’t have to do anything at all if you want a day of rest!
  • Take recovery material with you if you are traveling for the holidays. If you do travel for the holidays, be sure to keep recovery readings, tokens, tools, and anything else you use on a regular basis with you. That might be a meditation book, a sobriety medallion, or a saved recovery podcast.
  • Prioritize sleep. At a time when we do more — attending parties and events and looking after others — it’s important to be mindful of rest, too. If we’re expending more energy we usually need more rest. Build this in to your planner, if possible. For example, if you’re up late planning a meal/attending a function, try to have the morning off work.
Have a relapse prevention plan. Relapse sometimes happens. What you do about it is important, though. Check out these blogs to prevent relapse and what to do if you do relapse during the holidays:
Know that detox is always an option. If you do relapse, or have a loved one struggling with addiction, we are here to help. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we bring compassion to the commotion. Peace to the pain. Empowerment to the powerless. If you or someone you know needs support with addiction problems, bring us your battle. Call us today and take the best, first step towards recovery: 720-704-1432