While the holidays are meant to be a time of celebration, happiness, togetherness, and cheer, it’s not always the case when trying to stay sober. Of course, staying sober during the holidays (or committing to drink or use less) doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy any of those things, but if you are trying to recover from drug or alcohol addiction, there’s likely to be added stress.
Whether you’ll be faced with temptation at family and friends’ get-togethers or if you’ll be around loved ones you’ve hurt through your addiction (or who have hurt you), navigating the holidays while in recovery can be challenging.
But it’s definitely doable.
Preparation and support are critical to staying clean throughout the holiday season. At BOLD Health in San Diego, CA, we have years of experience guiding our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) patients through the holiday season while they successfully reach their goals with alcohol and drug use, whether that’s complete abstinence or moderating their use.
And with the right tools, strategies, and support system in place, you too can make it through the holiday season while in recovery.
Prepare Yourself for the Holiday Festivities
As with almost anything in life: preparation is key when battling addiction during the holidays. This goes for your mindset as well as your activities. The more you ready yourself for potentially difficult situations or people, the better you’ll be able to make it through each holiday event while staying sober.
Of course, you always have the option to avoid holiday get-togethers altogether, but doing so might make you feel like you’re missing out, especially if you’re a social person. And sometimes, it’s virtually impossible to avoid certain “difficult” family members throughout the holiday season.
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Here are some preparation tips to help you get through the holiday season while in recovery.
- Plan each day: Early in the recovery journey, meeting your goal of abstinence or moderation requires a daily commitment to recovery. While slipping up on one day doesn’t mean that the next can’t be successful, starting each day with a goal for your recovery is important, and the holiday season is no exception.
Plan on sticking to your recovery. Wake up each morning and remind yourself how great it feels to be sober. Tell yourself how amazing you’ll feel in January when the holiday season is over.
Plan your days one at a time, trying your best to prepare yourself for events and people you may encounter. Don’t set expectations too high for yourself if you feel like a particular day may be overwhelming. It’s okay to say no to certain events if you think it’ll just be way too much for you to handle at your point in recovery.
- Rehearse responses: If you were a social drinker before you went into recovery, it’s likely people notice you’re not drinking now. While some family and friends may know you’re battling addiction and working toward recovery, others may not be in the loop. Therefore, you might get questions like, “Why aren’t you drinking?” or “Where’s your drink?”
In the end, whether you tell others about your sobriety or not is up to you. You can either tell them about your important life update, or you can just tell them you’re trying to see how not drinking positively affects your health. Having a beverage of some kind in your hand can be particularly helpful in these settings–a club soda with lime or lemon, cranberry juice, Coke….this makes it less likely for you to even get asked these questions in the first place.
- Know triggers: This one is crucial. If you are in a quality recovery program like our IOP at BOLD Health, our addiction specialists will help you identify your triggers. You have to know what these are before going to any sort of holiday event.
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Keep the acronym HALT in mind when going through the holidays in recovery. HALT stands for Hunger, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. When you feel the urge to drink or use, ask yourself if you are experiencing any of these, since they make you more vulnerable to relapse.
- Bring your own drink: Standing around with a drink in your hand is common at holiday social gatherings. But if you don’t want to be bored with water, plan ahead and bring your own “mocktail.” Or, simply bring along a non-alcoholic beverage of your choice like soda or apple cider.
- Bring a trusted friend: Support while fighting addiction during the holidays is essential. Whether that’s your therapist, family members, or trusted friend(s), you need to have people on your side while trying to recover.
Consider bringing along a reliable friend or family member committed to helping you stay sober at the event. And, just to be safe, it’s also a good idea to have the phone numbers of trusted support individuals just in case you need someone to talk to.
- Rely on your support system: One of the major benefits of engaging in an IOP for alcohol or drug addiction is that it gives you the support of other group members and therapists while you move through the holiday season. Being able to show up to a group and know that others there will understand what you’re going through can make any social situation seem less overwhelming, and help you reach your goals with alcohol or drug use.
Use Your Support System
If you are battling addiction during the holidays alone, it’s going to be a lot tougher for you than if you had a solid support system. Even if you don’t have a reliable friend or family group, you can always talk to your doctor about finding a therapist and quality IOP.
If you have a solid support system, it’s crucial you rely on them. Don’t be ashamed of asking for help. Addiction itself is difficult, but addiction and the holidays are even more challenging.
- Be honest: Seeking help for your addiction is a sign of strength, not weakness. Roughly 21 million Americans suffer from addiction, so you aren’t alone. Don’t be afraid to share your journey with trusted friends and family members. The more support you have, the better. If you have a super-strong support network and make your struggles known, you may even be able to attend get-togethers without worrying about the temptation of alcohol or drugs!
- Ask for support: Talk to your therapist, doctor, or IOP group members about needed help when you know things will be or are currently triggering to you. Whether you believe it or not, people do want to see you succeed in your goals. If you don’t ask for support, you are less likely to get it. It can never hurt to ask trusted support network individuals.
Enroll in an IOP to Help You Overcome Addiction During the Holidays
Staying sober or moderating alcohol and drug use during the holidays is not an easy thing to do alone, so seek support. Enrolling in an IOP before or during the holidays is a wise decision.
Our experts at BOLD Health in San Diego have helped people just like you navigate the struggles of staying sober during the holiday season. If you don’t have a therapist or need more information about our IOP program, contact us.
We’re ready to help you stay clean and sober through the holidays and years to come.