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8 Tips to Stay Sober During the Holidays

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The holiday season is officially here, and while many of us enjoy connecting with loved ones, strained relationships and complicated family dynamics can make this a challenging time as well. Individuals in recovery may find themselves in difficult situations or around people who don’t understand what sober living entails.

Keep reading for 8 tips to stay sober during the holidays — and keep an eye out for a few words of encouragement from our wonderful team members here at Gaudenzia.  

Need help with addiction treatment? Please call Gaudenzia’s 24-hour Treatment and Referral HelpLine at 833.976.HELP (4357) or email [email protected]

8 Tips to Maintain Sobriety This Holiday Season

The string lights are going up and holiday music is everywhere — but so is travel stress, fear of judgement, and proximity to family members we may not always get along with. Luckily, with upfront planning and plenty of self-care, we can find ways to embrace the celebratory season without sacrificing our needs or boundaries.

Let’s dive into our top tips for managing your recovery during the holidays:

1. Plan Ahead

Feeling trapped in a situation where you don’t feel comfortable can make it impossible to enjoy a family gathering. If you anticipate the presence of drugs or alcohol, or if you know an unsupportive friend or family member will attend, going into the event with plan can help you feel grounded and in better control of your situation. It’s also important to remember you’re NOT obligated to go to an event that may compromise your recovery.

Here are just a few tips for planning ahead:

  • Take your own transportation
  • Arrive early and have an exit strategy if you feel uncomfortable and/or if your boundaries aren’t respected
  • Make a plan to connect with a sponsor or friend in recovery before, during, and/or after the event
  • Attend a 12-Step meeting before arriving
  • Bring a sober companion
  • Bring your own non-alcoholic beverages
  • Practice polite ways to turn down drugs and/or alcohol if offered
  • Consider whether you want to share your recovery status and how you would like to do so

Having a plan and sharing it with a trusted friend or family member can help ease some of the anxiety associated with busy holiday gatherings.

Check out the video below for top holiday tips from our caring, compassionate team members here at Gaudenzia and keep reading for more strategies:

2. Celebrate Your Relationships

Keep the focus on family and friends, rather than centering it around common holiday indulgences like eating and drinking. This applies to unhealthy food, alcoholic beverages, drugs, and tobacco. By setting the intention to form healthy connections with people instead, you can look for opportunities to make new friends, prioritize quality family time, and identify loved ones who will support you on your recovery journey. When you do go in for a scoop of dessert or what appears to be iced tea, it’s always a good idea to confirm with the host which food items and drinks are non-alcoholic.

3. Double Down on Self-Care       

While the holidays encourage us to focus on our loved ones, it’s essential to prioritize self-care. Ensuring that you feel grounded — and that your physical and emotional needs are met — will better help you navigate any negative emotions that arise. If you feel unsettled or notice a shift in your mood, remember to pause and check in with yourself.

The H.A.L.T. technique is an excellent tool for this:

HALT Technique

If you can identify which of the HALT attributes you are feeling, share this information with a supportive loved one and take positive steps to resolve the situation.   

4. Be of Service to Others

Those who feel it’s in their best interest to avoid family gatherings altogether — or those looking to create new, meaningful sober holiday traditions — may want to consider volunteering. Opportunities to serve others include serving holiday meals to individuals experiencing homelessness, spending time with elderly family members, friends, or neighbors, and helping newcomers in the recovery community feel safe and welcome with recovery-friendly gatherings.

5. Understand and Honor Your Limits

It’s important to minimize or avoid known relapse triggers. This includes physical and emotional triggers. Physical triggers may include the presence of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and any related paraphernalia. Emotional triggers can range from stressors that commonly arise around events/gatherings, critical or judgmental comments from loved ones, folks purposefully or unwittingly offering drugs or alcohol to a person in recovery, and friends and family members indulging in drugs and alcohol or centering conversations around recreational substance use.

Individuals in recovery and their sober support systems can gently redirect conversations to more inclusive and respectful topics, ask loved ones to be mindful of their drug and alcohol use, or remove themselves from the situation. Understanding and honoring your own limits will help you protect your sobriety, which is your number one priority.      

6. Schedule Medical Appointments and Refill Medications Ahead of Time

The holidays can bring seemingly endless demands and commitments, which can contribute to feelings of stress and overwhelm. It’s important, however, to stay on top of important life tasks, like keeping up with medical appointments and ensuring you have the medication you’ll need on hand. For those in recovery, this includes medications prescribed as part of a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program. To reduce unnecessary stress and ensure you have the tools you need to support and maintain your recovery, check in with your treatment provider and support group before holiday events, and try to schedule any necessary medical appointments.

7. Keep Naloxone on Hand

Naloxone, also known as Narcan®, is a lifesaving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids. Our experts recommend always keeping naloxone on hand for emergencies, whether for yourself or another. Familiarize yourself with how to administer naloxone and encourage others to do so as well.

Here’s an informative tutorial:

8. Reach Out for Support When You Need it

If you find yourself in distress or in a situation where your sobriety may be — or has been — compromised, reaching out for help is essential. Remember, your safety is your top priority. You have the right to leave an unsupportive or unhealthy environment, or to decline attending family gatherings in favor of a safe, supportive environment — even if this means enjoying a special celebration alone.

Reach out to your sober support network often. If you experience a relapse, or feel you may be in danger of relapse, reach out to a treatment provider as soon as possible. Your life is always worth it.

Gaudenzia’s 24-hour Treatment and Referral HelpLine is available 24/7 year-round — even on holidays. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for support when you need it. Give our team a call any time at 833.976.HELP (4357) or email us at [email protected]

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