Getting Through the Holidays Sober and Sane

Posted on December 17th, 2014

The weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year can be a stressful time for those in recovery. It is usually a particularly stressful time if you are newly sober and not accustomed to getting through the holidays sober and without the crutch of a chemical to numb your feelings.

It’s a busy time full of overloaded schedules and expectations from family, friends and coworkers. You probably have more to do than you have time for. You may be expected to attend holiday get-togethers with people who are drinking, and these events may make you feel anxious. Feelings of stress or anxiety can cause you to be tempted to pick up a drink or a drug.

While the holidays are supposed to be a joyful time, for most people it’s a season that often seems to be full of more stress than joy. How do you hang onto your sobriety and your sanity during the holiday season?

Getting Mentally Prepared for the Holiday Season

To get ready for the holidays, it may help to prepare for what you may face. For example, if your family is comprised of heavy drinkers, you may need to practice what you will say if they try to suggest that it would be all right for you to have just one drink. A simple, straightforward answer will usually get them to stop pushing it, such as, “I’m choosing not to drink today.” You could also volunteer to be the designated driver.

If you have to attend company get-togethers where alcohol will be served, try to bring a sober friend along or plan to call or text your sponsor or other friends in recovery during the event. If you are surrounded by people who are drinking or drugging, take care of yourself first and leave the gathering if that’s what you need to do to protect your sobriety.

You should also be prepared if you are traveling; you will be faced with plenty of places where people are encouraged to drink, such as airplanes, airports, restaurants and hotel bars. Know that these settings may make you uncomfortable, but you don’t have to pick up a drink or a drug if and when you feel the compulsion to do so.

Keep It Simple

Keep doing the simple things that you know will work to keep you sober. Keep using the same tools during the holidays that you use on ordinary days. Don’t drink, and get to as many meetings as you can. Remind yourself of the slogans such as “Easy Does It,” “Think” and “Remember When.”

Think through the possible consequences you might suffer if you give in to the urge to pick up a drink or a drug. You may destroy friendships, your marriage, your career or your health. There is no good reason to pick up a drink or a drug. It’s important to do whatever you need to do to avoid giving in to cravings.

At any given time in your sobriety, no matter what you are facing, the simple solution is to focus on only one day at a time. Don’t project into days and events that haven’t happened yet. Trust that you will be able to handle whatever may come up during the holidays.

You Are Not Alone

You are not the only person in recovery who may be feeling a bit crazy during the holiday season. It can be challenging to be around family or friends who are drinking, particularly when you are feeling stressed, and many other people in recovery are having similar experiences during this busy season.

Reach out to other people in recovery and share your feelings. Get to more meetings if you can. There may be extra meetings available during the holidays, and sometimes meetings are available around the clock. Talk about your feelings with a friend in recovery or a therapist. If you can’t get to a meeting, look online for AA or NA forums so you can connect with other sober people.

Keep reminding yourself that any uncomfortable feelings you are having will pass. Unpleasant feelings are temporary and so is the holiday season. Hang in there and don’t pick up no matter what.

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