How to Remain Sober During the Holidays

Lonely christmas with sad family conflict or grief on holiday. Man with stress, money problem or depression on Xmas. Unhappy tired person with loneliness in front of a decoration tree at winter home.

While many people look forward to their seasonal breaks, they can be a challenging time for those wrestling with addiction or recovering from substance abuse. Partly characterized by indulgence and hedonism, these periods can come with increased stress and temptation for those wishing to remain sober. Substances may be more readily available and social events often revolve around the consumption of alcohol

This is why it’s essential that those in need have access to adequate support and organize their holidays in a way that’s conducive to sobriety. We know how difficult this can be, but with proper planning, communication, and assistance, you’ll be able to stay sober and enjoy the season in a healthy, fulfilling way.

Devise a plan and set clear boundaries

Before the festivities get underway, allot some time to work through how you’ll handle potential triggers and temptations. This could include identifying alternative activities to replace drinking or setting clear boundaries with those who may not be supportive of your sobriety. 

Consider the situations that could prompt your desire to use substances and figure out strategies to avoid or manage them. If being around certain people or attending specific events triggers cravings, it’s best to substitute these with other enjoyable options. Having a list of coping mechanisms or healthy distractions on hand can help, such as going for a walk or utilizing your recovery support network

Drawing up a list of sober activities can be extremely helpful. This could include going for a bike ride, seeing a movie, ice skating, joining a yoga class, or attending a sober holiday event. Having a prewritten list of options will enable you to make good choices and enjoy the festive season without feeling like you’re missing out.

During this time, people you know may be participating in drink and drug use. Ideally, you want to avoid environments that can trigger your urges—but this isn’t always possible. 

This is why we advise you to work on your refusal skills. You need to be prepared to decline offers in a firm yet respectful way. Strategies might include simply saying “No, thanks” and changing the subject or simply removing yourself from the situation. Remember, your sobriety is of infinitely higher importance than whether someone feels put out by a refusal.

Seek support

seek support from family. family having dinner together on holidays

Arguably, the most essential component of staying sober is a trustworthy, reliable support network. No one should have to overcome such a challenge alone. With the holidays often rife with temptations, it’s essential you surround yourself with helpful people who understand and respect your decision to stay sober.  

Communicate your needs to your family and friends so they can support you and adjust their behaviour accordingly. If you have a friend you fully trust, you can both agree for them to serve as your ‘support person’. Having them on standby can be immensely valuable, especially during those times you feel particularly vulnerable. 

However, not everyone’s loved ones are able to offer such assistance. In fact, sometimes, a person’s family dynamics can impede their decision to stay sober, cause trauma to resurface, and lead to urges. This is where professional help can be invaluable.

Our addiction treatment programs include comprehensive family support that helps cultivate awareness and understanding of all aspects of addiction. We can help to reduce stigma, as well as increase compassion and acknowledgment within each family system.

Ultimately, we want to ensure you get the support you deserve, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us

Practice self-care

We hear a lot about self-care today, but what does it actually entail? Generally speaking, it involves taking actions to promote your overall well-being and health, as well as manage issues like addiction and illness. 

When the chaos and temptation of the holidays loom, self-care can be the soil from which sobriety blossoms. Fortunately, there are countless ways to practice it. Below are several methods that can help you build the resilience and strength you need to stay sober during the holidays. 

1. Keep a journal

Journaling is an invaluable aid to sustaining sobriety. It enables you to reflect on your thoughts and feelings, monitors your progress, and recognize repeating patterns and potential triggers.

Writing in a journal allows you to process any difficult experiences you may encounter while also providing an outlet for you to explore healthier methods of coping with negative emotions. Additionally, journaling can be used as a tool to celebrate seemingly small successes along the journey of recovery. 

All in all, it’s an immensely empowering tool that can encourage you to stay committed to your path. By promoting self-reflection and growth, a journal can be a powerful asset for staying sober.

2. Get adequate rest

Major signs and symptoms of depression - CFHH

Sleep truly is our superpower and, arguably, the most important aspect of health and well-being. Put simply, without enough restorative rest, your body and mind won’t be performing optimally, meaning you’ll be more vulnerable to cravings. 

As sleep helps to restore these important resources, it can help those who are in recovery stay sober by providing them with the physical and mental energy necessary for resisting urges and temptations. 

A healthy sleep routine also helps build up strength for when life’s difficulties arise; without sufficient rest, individuals may fall back into unhealthy coping mechanisms as opposed to finding healthier ones that support their long-term sobriety. 

There are many methods to help you ensure you get a good night’s rest, so figure out a routine that works for you and set yourself up for a sober season.

3. Exercise

It may not be the most attractive proposition for many people, but the research is clear: exercise is massively helpful for maintaining sobriety. 

As Dr. Robert Butler famously said,

“If exercise could be packaged in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.”

Not only can it improve mental clarity, reduce stress, and increase feelings of self-efficacy, but regular physical activity can also lead to improved sleep quality. 

What’s more, you don’t need to start preparing for a marathon or getting a personal best on your deadlift to see results! Just going for a brisk walk, or dancing around your kitchen, can help replace a vacated spot in the daily routine, thereby avoiding the temptations that can surface in moments of inactivity. 

Participating in group-based training sessions or simply working out with a friend can provide an additional social outlet that’s also integral to recovery.

4. Practice mindfulness

close up photo of thankful woman christmas

There’s a huge body of research proving the myriad benefits of mindfulness, and it’s now widely used in mental health treatment. When it comes to supporting sobriety, it’s an invaluable practice. 

Staying sober involves developing an awareness of your individual triggers; it requires cultivating a deep understanding of how certain situations or feelings might lead to substance or alcohol abuse – or relapse. 

Through mindfulness and meditation, you can develop the ability to recognize your emotions as well as understand your reactions to them. In the long run, this can instill key life skills for dealing with whatever threatens to derail your sobriety.

Essentially, mindfulness allows you to focus on calming the body and mind, staying in the present moment, and preventing a descent into reactivity and harmful behaviours like drinking or drug use. 

5. Eat nutritious meals

Maintaining a healthy diet can be difficult during a time marked by rampant indulgence. What’s more, though it may seem insignificant, certain foods can even trigger urges and potentially send you down a slippery slope. 

A balanced diet can help to aid the recovery process by providing the body with the nutrients it needs to repair and regenerate tissues, support immune function, and manage stress. Some foods can even combat depression.

Eating healthy, nutritious food won’t just have a positive impact on your overall health; it will also enable you to practice setting clear boundaries with yourself and others, thereby creating an environment that can properly sustain sobriety.

Explore new traditions

By this, we don’t mean compromising your beliefs or dismissing holidays like Christmas altogether. After all, the true ethos of many of these traditions has little to do with consuming alcohol or using substances. 

So, why not try and find new traditions that don’t involve drinking but still remain faithful to the spirit of the season? For example, volunteering can be an extremely fulfilling way to be of service to those in need, as well as keep your mind occupied and free from urges.

You can also spend time with supportive family members who respect and understand your needs; organizing festive sober events like baking cookies, board games, or going on a winter hike.

Attending a recovery support group can also be beneficial during the holiday season. There you will feel a sense of solidarity and share festive cheer with those who relate to your commitment to sobriety. 

Finally, remember your “Why”

smiling mother and daughter by the christmas tree

Whenever temptation raises its tantalizing head—when those powerful urges emerge, or an irresponsible friend attempts to lead you down an old path—remember why you made the decision to get sober in the first place. 

This “Why” is the foundation for your sobriety. Ultimately, you deserve a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life. A life with improved health and relationships, one defined by self-love and inner peace, one which allows you to be more productive and motivated. 

If you’re struggling during this challenging time, we’re here to help. Our team members are experts when it comes to treating addiction and supporting you in your sobriety. Contact us here

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