During the holiday season, addiction can become a white-knuckled event with spectators and participants at the ready. Staying sober and practicing sobriety can be a challenge without the added pressure of a holiday gathering or holiday event.
Whether you are a family member, friend, loved one, or actively using substances yourself; there are ways to get supports this holiday season.
You do not have to keep playing out the same patterns and expecting different results.
There are ways to help yourself before, during, and after the holidays while you support your sobriety.
When you are in a home with active addiction for the holidays, sometimes the best thing to do is not contribute to insanity.
This means that you don’t perpetuate patterns through gossip, outbursts, and regretful actions. Show up with loving self-discipline.
One peaceful person in the home can stop cycles of addiction within a family unit.
Depending on the way you show up, you may defer to caretaking, substance use, avoidance, or outbursts. Sometimes, one person can fit all of these roles.
Generational patterns can mean that people within your family are participating in active addiction while you are supporting sobriety. This is a difficult experience to navigate.
Sometimes, the healthiest choice you can make is to opt out. It is better to disappoint others rather than yourself due to the fallout of shame that can occur.
No matter what role you have played in the past, you can make different choices for yourself this year.
Here are 5 tips to help support yourself with sobriety during the holiday season this year:
1. Set Boundaries.
When you are supporting sobriety throughout the holidays, one of the most important things you can do is to set boundaries. Often, you will have to reset boundaries with people who have known a previous version of yourself and benefitted from it.
If you don’t show up as the same person, there may be feedback.
Be prepared to set spoken boundaries and time boundaries. If you know that you get antsy at the one-hour mark, leave the event. If you know that certain people activate you more than others, limit contact with them.
Have a safe way to exit and get home. Often driving yourself can give you freedom and choices. If that is not possible, you can make plans with a trusted friend or family member to leave when it is time.
You also have the option to utilize apps like Uber or Lyft. Limit your decision making in the moment. Know before you go how you will get back home.
Do not leave these decisions up for chance because the uncertainty can make it difficult to support sobriety in the moment.
Boundaries can sound like:
- “I need to leave in one hour.”
- “My drinking is not up for discussion.”
- “I’m making choices that support the life I want to live.”
- “I already have a way to get home.”
- “I’m not ready to discuss my new habits with you yet.”
- “I need to get some fresh air. Excuse me.”
- “I’m taking one day at a time right now.
2. Go to 12-step meetings.
When you are practicing a sober lifestyle, big events and small moments can get in the way of your goal. Instead of white-knuckling the experience through endurance, beef up your supports.
Early recovery can be the most difficult because addiction triggers and emotional triggers seem to be everywhere. There is no shame in getting help to support addiction recovery.
There are hundreds of 12-step meetings in Colorado, and no matter the day, they are available. Due to the pandemic, you can now attend many meetings on Zoom, which means that you don’t have to stay in Colorado for a meeting. You can “travel” to any state, country, and continent.
If you need a meeting at 3 in the morning, there is likely something available to you in a different part of the world. Twelve-step communities are everywhere, and they can help.
Reframe your mindset from “if this happens” to “when this happens.” Prepare yourself with useful tools that are within you already. This also means you can go to events that are sober in nature already.
Often, 12-step communities prepare for the holidays through sober events and will plan a sober holiday with people who have the collective goal of sobriety, which can feel supportive.
Through recovery communities, you can make a sober friend or sober buddy who can hold you accountable when you feel holiday stress. If you have been in recovery for a while, ensure that you have a sponsor or trusted sober friend who supports your addiction treatment.
No matter where you are on your recovery journey, a sober holiday season is possible.
3. Opt out.
At any moment, you can choose differently. You do not have to show up, even if that means disappointing family members and friends who were expecting you. Your mental health is most important. You can opt out of a fight, conversation, and uncomfortable situation at any time.
You do not have to give a reason or justify why you are choosing differently. It is also helpful to remember that clear is the kindest way to deliver a message. It may feel clumsy at first, but the more you practice, the stronger you will become.
If you do opt out of an event that you have shown up to in the past, have a backup plan. Whether you get together with another group instead or create a loving space for yourself at home, it is important to not abandon yourself when you opt out.
As an adult, it is your responsibility to create a way to love yourself no matter what. Recreating abandonment can be harmful and showing up for yourself can be life changing.
When you opt out of fights and conversations that are harmful, you teach yourself and others that you do not have to be a product of your past patterns.
4. Create a mocktail or non alcoholic drink.
If you struggle with sobriety and have chosen to participate in events that can feel overwhelming, a way to help diffuse the stressful situation is to come prepared.
Plan a drink for yourself that tastes delicious to you. Chances are that others may want a non-alcoholic version of a drink too.
It can be as simple as sparkling water or juice. You can also get fancy with your creation.
It is helpful to have a non alcoholic drink in your hand or readily available to help with cravings during social gatherings.
The focus can shift from deprivation of an alcoholic drink to satiation from a non alcoholic drink. The more you can get comfortable with being uncomfortable, the easier events become.
It is not your responsibility to explain your drink, and you can shift the focus from what you are missing to what you are gaining.
5. Reward yourself.
We all need wins right now, and when you struggle with sobriety in a stressful situation, you deserve to feel pride when you do make choices that are supportive for you. Sobriety is a conscious choice one day at a time.
When stress increases, it can mean you take moments one second at a time. Love yourself anyway.
When you get home, you can celebrate with a tv show you love to watch, snack you love to eat, or get some rest with a nap.
Have your reward in mind before you get home so that you can have something to look forward to after the event.
If you are not successful with supporting your sobriety or relapse during the holidays or a holiday party, reach out to your community and the trusted people in your life.
Instead of spiraling into shame, loneliness, and grief; you can make different choices. It’s okay to feel disappointed in yourself for not reaching your goals and make changes instead.
Read Also: “To Holiday With Others, Or Not To, That Is The Question. Navigating The Holidays With Your Person(s)”
Alcohol addiction and substance abuse is a disease, not confirmation that you aren’t a strong, resilient person.
One slip up doesn’t have to become a disaster. The disease of addiction loves to live in extremes, so black and white thinking will keep you stuck there.
Take a deep breath, reach out, and give yourself a hug.
Practice makes progress, so get the help you deserve.
When you show up differently, you can make changes in your life. Often, addiction is a symptom to a problem like anxiety, depression, or an unwanted feeling of shame.
You don’t have to identify as an addict or alcoholic to make different choices about your drinking during the holidays. If you know you want to support your sobriety, speak with a professional, like a therapist, to make the decision that works best for you.
Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC