It’s the holiday season and for most this is a time of excitement, joy, and love. But for others, particularly those in sobriety, this can be the most challenging and stressful time of the year. Thanksgiving through New Years day there are so many stressors present. Whether it’s personal, financial, emotional, or physical stressors this is the time of the year that can really test your sobriety. Whether you have a few days, months, or even years of sobriety this challenge is real. So how do you deal with the stress of the holiday season? Do you skip the family meal in hope to not be questioned by your aunts and uncles? Do you lock yourself in your bedroom until January 2nd hoping to skip the holidays altogether? Or do you take this challenge head on and begin to heal and celebrate with those close to you?
The Holiday season is about traditions and families. Although it may be hard, especially if you have bad memories or suffered loss that causes holidays to be emotional, there are ways to make it through and maintain your sobriety. The biggest challenge will be to remember that you are the most important person in your life right now and your sobriety comes first. Therefore, if you’re feeling overwhelmed it is extremely important to call your sponsor as well as go to a 12 step meeting. Surrounding yourself with a supportive and positive recovery group will always be your first and most important step in your recovery no matter the time of the year.
So how do you celebrate the Holiday season sober? I challenge you to think creatively and explore new traditions. There is no reason you cannot have the same amount of cheer and fun during this season now that you are substance free. Here are some healthy traditions which may be new to you or a fun “Sober” spin on an old tradition.
Grab a few friends and family members and enjoy a night of caroling. Sing your favorite holiday songs, enjoy some laughs, and end the night with some hot cocoa. This tradition can be fun and drug free.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen or church
If Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day is the most challenging for you take time to give back. Volunteer to help out at a soup kitchen or a church. Surrounding yourself with those in need will help you stay busy and focused on helping others that may also be struggling during the holidays. This allows you to remember what the true meaning of the holiday season really is and sometimes with the hype of the season we can forget about the importance of giving back to those less fortunate.
Holiday Movie night
It’s no secret that Thanksgiving Eve, Christmas Eve, and New Years eve are very popular drinking days. This is going to be challenging to most especially if you are early in your recovery. However it doesn’t have to be. Invite some of your closest friends over for a Holiday movie night. Have some cookies and hot cocoa and enjoy conversation with those close to you. Remember being around others during the holiday season is a key component to your recovery. This will force you to engage when your instinct is to isolate or run to the bar.
12 Step meeting celebrations
If family time is difficult this time of the year for you your next best thing is to go to the rooms. Let’s be honest you know more about those in the 12 step groups then you would think because when you are struggling and need guidance that where you go. Talk to the group and plan a holiday dinner together or a coffee date on the eve of the Holiday. If you are struggling with the holiday season and staying sober chances are they may be struggling to. When you work together great things can happen.
Sober Ball for New Years Eve
New Years Eve is about partying and celebrating. This typically comes with alcohol. Start a new tradition. Invite friends and family to a themed ball at your favorite spot (or you could even rent a hall as a group) and enjoy some alcohol free beverages and music. The party isn’t about the alcohol present its about the company you share it with. Have fun with it and make it a themed night. Break out the music and costumes or dresses and enjoy a night that you will be able to remember the next day!
These are just a few ideas to help enjoy the holidays and maintain your sobriety. Please remember that you need to take care of yourself in order to be there for those you love. If the Holiday season tends to be a trigger for you or too much for you to handle reach out for help. There are meetings at all hours of the day and even online. If you feel the need to attend a family party or a gathering with your co workers where you know there will be alcohol present, have an exit strategy prior to attending or better yet take a buddy with you that can support you through the night. Reach out to your friends and family and tell them what is going on. Communication will go a long way. Finally, my last tip for you, remember HALT; watch yourself so you don’t get Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Get plenty of rest, meditate when possible, exercise when feeling stressed out, and watch what you eat.
Make sure you take care of yourself this holiday season and don’t forget what the real meaning of the holidays are.