For many, the holidays are some of the happiest times of the year. It’s a time to catch up with family and friends, sip hot cocoa by the fireplace and watch the glistening lights from the window. But for someone who is recovering from an alcohol use disorder (AUD), the holidays can be filled with challenges and triggers.

Rather than viewing the holidays as a stressful and hectic time, think ahead to help relieve some of the pressure. For example, if you’ve been in recovery for a short period of time, you may set boundaries that involve avoiding functions that will have alcoholic beverages. On the other hand, individuals who have been alcohol-free for longer may limit the amount of time they spend around parties or plan their own sober celebration.

This year, vow to be proactive in how you approach the holidays. Not only will it alleviate last-minute stress, but it will also give you more time to focus on the things that matter most – cherished memories with loved ones.

There’s no party so important that you should put your sobriety on the line. For some people, the thought of revising their schedule simply hasn’t occurred to them. They say, ‘Well, that makes sense, but I never considered doing that.’

Jason Jerry, MD
Staff physician at the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center at Cleveland Clinic’s Lutheran Hospital

Recovery and the Holidays: How to Stay Sober

You don’t need alcohol to have an enjoyable holiday season with loved ones. After all, it’s about spending time together, regardless of what you’re doing. The holiday season is a perfect opportunity to show your appreciation to those who have helped you along your journey to recovery – their support, encouragement and motivation along each step.

While each family’s holiday celebrations are unique, you can keep the chaos to a minimum with these five tips to surviving the season:

Heavy Drinking Celebration

Avoid celebrations and parties that involve heavy drinking

You know your family and friends better than anyone else. Because of this, you can determine the best course of action for the holiday season. Instead of family get-togethers with huge amounts of booze, come up with a new solution that works for everyone. This keeps you away form potentially dangerous and risky situations.

If you still want to visit with certain individuals, you can politely decline a holiday party invitation and offer a time to grab lunch or participate in another activity. This shows the person that they matter to you, but keeps you safe from heavy-drinking celebrations.

Alcohol Support Group Meeting Around the Holidays

Attend extra support group meetings and counseling sessions

If the holidays leave you feeling uncertain and low-spirited, you’re not alone. Going to support groups or frequent counseling sessions can help you work through any challenging situations that may arise. An alcohol counselor will guide you in how to prevent triggers and maintain your sobriety, no matter what obstacle comes your way.

Many people also find it extremely beneficial to talk with peers who are in recovery and going through similar circumstances. When you need a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen, you can always count on sponsors and members of your support group for advice and encouragement.

Alcoholism Triggers

Recognize potential triggers and risky situations

One of the biggest takeaways from alcohol rehab is the ability to identify and overcome an urge to drink. There can be a number of factors that trigger alcohol use like the friends you’re surrounded by, a specific spot around town or even a certain behavior you’re engaging in.

It takes time and practice to fully understand how to respond to different cravings or temptations. At first, you may have to consciously think about your actions and behaviors to refrain from drinking. Over time, your brain will be rewired to pick up on various triggers and know how to respond.

Alcohol-free Holiday Activities

Create new holiday activities and traditions

It’s ok to create new holiday traditions or even refresh old ones to fit your alcohol-free lifestyle. For instance, if the holidays consisted of sitting around the fireplace drinking eggnog, come up with new activities and ideas for loved ones to partake in.

For those who want to stay snuggled up inside, consider a board game night with family and friends, or watch a special holiday movie. If you’re more outdoorsy, look into local skate parks, holiday concerts or take a walk around the block and admire all of the decorations. There are countless things to do in communities large and small that will get you in the holiday spirit.

Focusing on Sobriety

Focus on your health, happiness and sobriety

Remember that recovering from alcoholism is a lifelong journey. While the road to maintaining sobriety may not always be an easy one, it’s important to look at things in a positive manner. This will help motivate you through the good times, as well as the bad.

Another way to focus on your health and happiness over the holiday season is to keep up with the activities you enjoy most. Maybe you’ve started an exercise routine after rehab, or you like building things for around the house. Set aside some time for the fun things that bring you pleasure. If you have family and friends over from out of town, you can even ask them to join you and spend some time together.

Cheers to a Sober Holiday Season

Make this holiday season a great one by steering clear from alcohol triggers and temptations. By understanding how to avoid potential roadblocks, you will have more time truly enjoy the reason of the season.

Carol is the lead writer for Alcohol Rehab Guide. She is passionate about helping people who are struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction. Her past experience in the medical field has led to a deep knowledge of the struggles facing those with a substance use disorder (SUD), and a desire to do something to help.

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