The holiday season brings delicious food and special memories with loved ones and family members. However, it can also bring stress, especially for those recovering from alcohol addiction. That’s because most celebrations include lots of drinking.
If you feel uneasy about staying sober this holiday season, try these 10 tips.
1. Practice Self-Care
It’s much easier to maintain addiction recovery when you take care of yourself. Before and after the celebration, protect your health by:
- sleeping at least eight hours a night
- eating healthy foods
- drinking plenty of water
- exercising regularly
You should also make time for relaxing activities. Popular options include reading, meditating, taking a bath, spending time with pets, and doing arts and crafts. When you’re relaxed, you’re less likely to crave alcohol.
2. Attend Support Groups
You’ll find people facing the exact same struggles you are. Plus, if this is your first sober seasn, you can learn helpful coping tips from more experienced group members.
3. Consider Your Triggers
Triggers are people, places, feelings, or other stimuli that make you want to drink alcohol. Write a list of your known triggers, and prepare ways to handle them.
For example, if you find out that an old drinking buddy will be at the same celebration as you, plan to keep your distance from them. You could also just skip the event.
Similarly, if you’re triggered by the smell of alcohol at dinner, try breathing deeply or remembering all the reasons you overcame substance abuse in the first place. If you still feel uncomfortable, excuse yourself from the table.
4. Bring Your Own Drinks
Don’t assume that your host will provide non-alcoholic beverages. Instead, bring enough water, juice, or soda to last the whole gathering.
If you want something more festive, try apple cider, hot chocolate, or eggnog. You could also make a mocktail, such as a Shirley Temple or non-alcoholic pomegranate spritzer. All of these tasty beverages can make alcohol less tempting.
5. Always Have A Drink In Your Hand
No matter what drinks you bring, always have one in your hand. This will reduce the chance of someone offering you an alcoholic drink, which could be triggering.
In some cases, a person might notice that your drink is non-alcoholic and offer you a boozy alternative. Prevent this situation by pouring all your drinks in red solo cups. That way, no one will know what you’re drinking.
6. Keep Sober Friends Close
If possible, invite a sober friend to any celebrations you attend. They can offer support and make you feel less alone.
If none of your sober friends can come with you, keep them on speed dial and let them know you might reach out. If you feel overwhelmed during the celebration, call or text them. They can talk you through triggering situations and hold you accountable for staying sober.
7. Take Breaks
When you arrive at a celebration, identify a safe place you can go if you feel overwhelmed. This might be a quiet room, a patio, or even your car. You could also go for a walk around the block.
These breaks give you time to relax, meditate, contact your sober friends, or do anything else that helps you manage alcohol-related anxiety.
Don’t worry about what other people might think when you take these breaks. Your health should be your first priority.
8. Plan An Exit Strategy
Sometimes, a break isn’t enough to ward off cravings. If you feel close to relapsing, leave the celebration immediately.
To make this easier, drive yourself to any events so you won’t have to wait around for someone else before you can leave.
Also, plan how you’ll respond if anyone asks why you’re leaving. Depending on your comfort level, you can either be honest or make an excuse, such as “I have to go meet some friends.”
9. Start New Traditions
It’s never too late to start new traditions. There are many ways to celebrate the season sans alcohol, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen, picking apples, or visiting a pumpkin patch.
You could also host your own sober holiday dinner. Prepare some delicious mocktails, and inform any non-sober guests that the event is alcohol-free.
10. Give Thanks For Your Sobriety
The season is all about gratitude. If you’re in recovery from alcohol addiction, you have a lot to be thankful for. While it’s important to acknowledge your anxiety around the holidays, you should also consider how far you’ve come.
Express gratitude toward yourself and the people who’ve supported your recovery. When you focus on these positives, you’ll find it easier to manage cravings.
You don’t have to struggle with alcohol addiction alone. Ark Behavioral Health offers a variety of treatment programs.