Whether you’ve been sober for a week or are going on your fifth year without a drink, the holidays present an extra temptation for many in that almost everyone is drinking, most people will try to get you to drink, and alcohol is everywhere. Topped with the often high-stress environment of spending time in a room with people who don’t necessarily get along, traveling to see family or in-laws, and the unnecessary way that many people try to force cheer on you over the holidays, and the holiday season is often anything but the happiest time of the year for recovering alcoholics. However, you shouldn’t let the fact that you can’t’ have alcohol interfere with your ability to have fun, enjoy the presence of your friends and family, or even to be happy. Sure, the holiday blues might kick in, you might get lonely if everyone else starts drinking, and you will definitely be tempted, but with a little planning, you can take all of that into account in advance and enjoy a fun and sober holiday.
Here are 7 ways to stay sober over the holidays.
1. Talk to Your Friends and Family About No Alcohol – Admitting that you can’t have alcohol can be difficult, especially if you haven’t come clean to everyone about your addiction. The closer you are to having recovered, the harder this will be, but it’s still crucial that you tell your friends and family not to give you alcohol. While you would ideally be able to convince them to have an alcohol-free party, this is unlikely, so you can simply ask them to refrain from giving you alcohol and to respect that you want them to take it away from you if you slip up. Most of us shy away from talking about our addiction, thanks to the large amount of stigma built up around it and the fact that most of us have learned to hide our addiction no matter what. Breaking this cycle, talking to your friends and family, and asking for help can not only ensure that they are on your side when the alcohol starts flowing, but may also help you to feel better yourself. 2. Visit Your Sobriety Group – If you currently attend a sobriety group, plan to continue doing so over the holidays. Many sobriety groups have chapters and members in multiple cities, so you may be able to arrange this even if you are traveling. If you are with a smaller group, you can also arrange to drop in for a guest meeting at an Alcoholics Anonymous or another sobriety group meeting while you are in town. Having someone to talk to, who understands your problems and doesn’t judge can be crucial to giving you the peace of mind to stay sober. Persons who regularly attend mutual support groups are less likely to have relapses because of the combination of having someone to hold them accountable, having someone to talk to, and understanding that they are not alone. You can plan your visits into your holiday very easily as many hold additional meetings during the holidays. 3. Exercise – Exercise releases endorphins in your brain, gives you a natural high, boosts your energy, and helps you to feel better. As a result, exercise can help you to fight cravings, to distract yourself from cravings, and even to feel better and less stressed so that you don’t think you need alcohol or drugs. Just remember not to overdo it. If you’re not accustomed to exercise, a light workout like a long walk or a short jog will benefit you much more than a 3-hour weight lifting session. Why? If you exhaust yourself or use too much of your willpower to force yourself to exercise, you will be more likely to reach for alcohol. By the same metric, you need to get enough sleep if you want your willpower at its highest. 4. Team Up – Whether you ask someone from group, ask a sibling, or even a friend, you should have someone to talk to and to help you stay sober. In most cases, you should pick someone who will also be staying sober, for whatever reason. For example, you can find out who’s driving, and then ask those people to make sure that you stay sober as well. Know who you can call or talk to when someone offers you a drink or you start to feel lonely before the holidays start. 5. Plan Your Reactions – People will probably offer you alcohol. Some may even be offensive if you refuse it. While this will vary depending on your family and the situation, you should expect someone to shove a glass in your face and tell you to drink. This is especially true over New Year’s, which most people see as an excuse to drink as much as is possible. You should plan reactions, think of funny ways to turn people down, and talk with them in advance. If you’re spending time with friends and family, then you should have a good idea of who will drink a lot and how to handle them. If you’re at a party with people you don’t know that well, be polite, be firm, and walk away when the person tries to hand you the drink. If you’re at a work party and don’t necessarily want your coworkers to know that you were addicted, you can also use valid or valid sounding excuses to turn away alcohol. “I’m driving”, “I’m picking my family member up from the airport”, “I have an alcohol allergy” etc., can all be used to deter unwanted drinks without tipping them off that you want to stay sober for another reason. 6. Find Entertainment – Sitting around listening to people talking, arguing, or even getting drunk can be frustrating, depressing, and boring. All of these emotions would make someone without an alcohol problem more likely to drink, so they are doubly likely to make you want drink. It is important that you plan to be bored, unhappy, and frustrated with the people in your room, and that you plan your own entertainment in case everyone does decide to get drunk. Board games, interactive party games on the TV, holiday traditions (such as singing carols), decorating, volunteering, outdoor sports, getting involved with cooking, helping to clean up, etc., can all be great ways to occupy yourself over the holidays so that you aren’t bored. 7. Write Down Your Reasons – You have reasons to stay sober, you have reasons not to pick up a glass, and you have reasons to ensure that your holiday is alcohol free. Make sure that you know them. For most of us, taking the time to write down our reasons can be extremely helpful and motivating when temptation comes our way. You can try writing out 10 reasons and refer to them throughout the season. If you’re not sure where to start, think of your career, your family members, your physical health, or anything you’ve achieved or hope to achieve since becoming sober. The holidays can be hard on sobriety, but they don’t have to be. If you’re not addicted to alcohol, the only thing telling you that you need a drink is you, and there’s no reason that you should want it. Just make sure that you have something to do, that you’re going to have fun without alcohol, and that you have planned how to say no and where to look for help. If you need help staying sober, make sure you contact your sobriety group or get in touch with a rehabilitation clinic. Happy Holidays.