Sober Holidays: A Guide
Remember the holidays when you were a child? Before the thought of a sober holidays was even a figment in your mind.
With Labor Day coming up fast to mark the start of the holiday season, there’s not time like the present to brush up on your approach to sober holidays this year. No matter what traditions you celebrate or practice, this can be a time of wonder and warmth with the right approach.
I used to think all the holidays were a big party designed just for me to be able to get drunk with my family and friends.
While in recovery it might seem daunting to face the holidays sober.
It seemed daunting to me, especially in my first years of recovery.
With the statistics surrounding depression around the holidays, it is more important than ever to keep recovery your number one priority.
A study done by the NIH found, “That seasonal affective disorder around the holidays can further contribute to symptoms of depression and stress.”
This in combination with whatever emotions (happy, sad, loneliness) a person has surrounding Christmas increases the chance of substance abuse.
Another statistic from a NIH study states that, “Alcohol consumption peaked during the Christmas and New Years.”
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How to Stay Sober During the Holidays
At Emerald Isle I discovered a ton of tactics to help me survive the holidays and all of the drama, loneliness, and beauty while sober.
I’m going to share them with you in the hopes that you can go into the holidays feeling confident, strong, and able to navigate the holidays while being your authentic, true self.
In my first year of recovery one of the biggest challenges was feeling overwhelmed.
My first holiday season in recovery I felt confident, until I stepped into the door at my parents’ house.
All of that confidence went out the window when I looked at the time and thought to myself,
“I have a whole day of this?”
That is when what I learned over and over again in one of the programs at Emerald Isle saved my recovery.
Take one thing at a time.
Even one second at a time, one minute at a time, one hour at a time.
It’s when you think of the big picture that things start to seem impossible.
The thing to remember is that you do not need all of the answers in this very moment, you just need to focus on your recovery.
When you feel your mind wandering to how am I going to do this, stop.
Go somewhere quiet if you need to and call your sponsor.
Take a moment to breathe or meditate.
Bring a notepad with and write how you feel and how you can navigate those feelings while being at a social event throughout the day.
Tactics for Parties
If you are attending a party, try to bring a sober partner with you. This is a person that is absolutely committed to not partaking in any substances. It could be through one of the many outpatient programs offered through Emerald Isle that you find a person. Keep reminding yourself as well that by not partaking in overindulgence you are doing a good thing for yourself. You won’t wake up with a headache. You won’t feel guilty. You will wake up fresh and feeling ready to accomplish whatever the day may bring.
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Keeping Others Sober and Safe this Holiday Season
Another way to deal with holiday parties is really taking on the role of being a sober person and making sure people do not drink and drive. This might be too much for you depending on where you are in your recovery, but it could give you a sense of purpose. A fact sheet that the NIH put out about drinking myths during the holidays give plenty of ideas to be a watchdog during parties. One myth states, drinking coffee will not make a person sober. Keep an eye on those around you and make sure that they are making safe decisions regarding how they get home.
Now, with Covid maybe your family gathering isn’t happening, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice for future years. Maybe Uncle Jim had one too many and you recognize he needs a cup of coffee or a cookie to sober up. Maybe your cousin overindulged and will need a place to stay since she has a two-hour drive back home.
Finding Purpose in Celebrating Your Sober Holidays
In the program at Emerald Isle, I learned that having a purpose is extremely important in the recovery process. Figure out what your purpose will be during the holiday season. Maybe it will as simple as, treat yourself kindly during the holidays. Or maybe it will be do something kind for someone else every chance you get. I think it’s important to note that you are not alone. There are many others out there in recovery, trying to stay sober and navigate the holidays. Try to reach out to your support network, whatever it may be.
This year because of Covid, many of us may not be visiting with our friends and family. Perhaps you live entirely alone. Time can be an enemy in these instances as well. Keep on repeating and reminding yourself of the mantra, one moment at a time. All you need to do is get through one moment at a time. Time alone could be beneficial for any projects you’ve been putting off. Write that song, read that book, call that friend.
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Avoiding the Hangover and its Benefits
You can stop procrastinating on those things that you never had time for. Most of all, focus on your recovery.
This is the absolute most important thing you can do for yourself.
You can make a list of all of the benefits of being sober throughout the holidays.
I don’t know about you but waking up hungover on New Year’s Day was never a pleasant experience.
If you are trying to start your year off right, waking up early and sober is a much better way to go.
Have a plan, either way, going into the holidays.
If you are alone, maybe you will have a marathon of your favorite movies and books lined up.
There are a ton of Christmas movies released prior to Christmas.
But if that isn’t your thing you can find a lot of free material online.
Perhaps you can cook some of your favorite meals and share them with a friends or family virtually if that is an option.
While you cook you could look up your favorite Christmas music to play.
Remember that if things get tough to check in with your support system or a professional.
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