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Staying Sober During the Holidays: Helpful Tips and Advice

While the holidays are sometimes considered the most wonderful time of the year, for many it isn’t all merriment and cheer. Especially for those in recovery during the holidays or individuals who recently completed a drug or alcohol addiction treatment program, the end of the year festivities can be a stressful and/or triggering time.

The Holidays, Recovery, and Relapse

While the idea of relapsing can be terrifying for someone in addiction recovery, it is often a part of many people’s recovery journeys. By some accounts, 60% of people with a substance use disorder will relapse within one year of getting treatment.1

These numbers may be even higher during the holiday season with a greater proportion of the population drinking during the months of November, December, and January compared to other times of the year.2 If the average person is more inclined to drink during the holiday season, those in recovery may be feeling especially triggered and at risk of relapse this time of year.

For someone in recovery, the holidays can be filled with triggers such as:

  • high stress.
  • holiday parties.
  • overwhelming schedules.
  • financial strain.
  • tension in personal relationships.
  • seasonal depression.

Whether you are seeing loved ones for the first time since getting sober or struggling to cope with holiday stress, relapsing during this time is not uncommon, but there may be some ways to help you stay on track for a sober holiday season.

Holiday Relapse Prevention Plan

Many may find it helpful to have a holiday relapse prevention plan before the holiday season starts. While not all will need one, a relapse prevention plan can be a good way to prepare yourself to recognize potential stressors and remove yourself from situations that may lead to a relapse.

7 Sober Holiday Tips

Recovery from addiction is a lifelong commitment and especially for those in early recovery, the risk of relapse is always possible. With the added holiday stress, it is okay to feel overwhelmed or unsure of the best ways to prevent relapse. The following are some tips on how to stay sober during the holidays so you can make the most of this time of the year while continuing your recovery journey.

1. Avoid Triggers

One of the best ways to help you stay sober during the holidays is to avoid any unnecessary triggers. The end of the year can be filled with holiday parties and celebrations that can leave those new to recovery experiencing strong cravings. Instead of putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation, it is okay to put your sobriety first this holiday season and say no to triggering events and environments.

2. Plan Ahead

If you do decide to attend a holiday event where you suspect there may be triggers, it is important to plan ahead. This planning may include creating an exit strategy, discussing your needs with loved ones ahead of time, knowing what you are going to say when asked about your drinking, or having a supportive friend or loved one “on-call” in case you need someone to talk to.

3. Don’t Overbook Yourself

There is a big difference between keeping busy to distract yourself from cravings and overbooking yourself with holiday festivities. Stress can be a big trigger for relapse, and the holidays can be stressful enough without committing to every event you are invited to. It is okay to say no or to skip a few commitments if it means putting your recovery first and staying sober during the holidays.

4. Take Your Space

While the holidays are a time to spend with friends and family, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need time to yourself. Especially if your relationships were damaged from your drinking or drug use, spending every minute together this holiday season may not be in your best interest. Instead, make sure to separate yourself and take time alone when needed. If visiting relatives that live farther away, you may also want to consider getting a hotel, so you have your own space.

5. Try to Keep a Healthy Routine

While it is easy to ditch your exercise plan, stay up too late, load up on holiday treats, and neglect self-care this holiday season, these habits could hurt your sobriety. An important holiday sober tip is to keep a healthy routine that includes being active, getting enough sleep, eating right, and setting time aside for yourself. Because these healthy habits are all proven to help reduce the risk of relapse, making them a priority could help you stay on track during this stressful time of year.1,3-5

6. Manage Your Expectations

It is easy to get carried away with the idealized version of what the holiday season should look like, but these expectations are unrealistic. Especially if it is your first holiday in recovery, it is important to manage your expectations. Families do not always get along, holiday events may not be as enjoyable as you hope, and holiday traditions can get out of hand. When you manage expectations, it can keep you from getting stressed when something doesn’t work out perfectly.

7. Find Support

Staying sober during the holidays, and holidays in recovery, may mean finding added support. You could attend additional recovery meetings, reach out to a trusted friend, or lean on your sponsor. Especially if you are traveling, you may be without your typical support system, so you will need to find other ways of finding that same support.

What Should I do if i Relapse During the Holidays?

If you do relapse during the holiday season, it is okay. For many people, relapse is a part of the recovery process and does not mean that you are a failure or that you should throw in the towel on your sobriety. There are plenty of ways to help you get back on track such as joining a recovery group, going to therapy, or starting outpatient treatment if needed.

If you relapsed or have a loved one who needs care, we may be able to help. At American Addiction Centers, we have several addiction treatment centers that offer inpatient and outpatient programming to help people in every stage of the recovery journey. You can use the directories to access not just AAC facilities, but thousands of rehab facilities from across the country. Contact us today to learn more about your treatment options. Call . Our professional and caring admissions navigators are here for you 24/7.

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