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  • Writer's pictureSophia Carter

Staying Sober During the Holidays

As families and friends gather around to create a magical holiday season, the entire world seems to be sparkling with joy. For some, though, the holidays can be a time of temptation and struggle. With the holidays often comes stress and parties, which can leave those recovering from addiction finding it difficult to stay sober during the season.

The desire to create a magical holiday season runs in many families, leaving everyone feeling stressed and exhausted before the first snow has even fallen. Whether you are traveling, buying gifts, in charge of food, or helping take care of Nana, you may find yourself tempted to reach for substances like drugs or alcohol just to get some relief.

The holidays can make it especially difficult for those recovering from addiction as access to their sponsors and groups can become difficult. So, with so many obstacles seeming to battle your recovery, how can you get through this holiday season sober?

Make a Plan to Protect Your Sobriety

Create a plan to protect your sobriety before the holiday season even begins. This may sound obvious, but preparing polite refusals, developing effective coping mechanisms when faced with triggers, and knowing your boundaries just may be the things you will need to get through this holiday season without relapsing. In your plan, make sure to include:

  • Finding a time to attend a meeting before participating in the holiday festivities.

  • Making plans with your sponsor, so you know you have support.

  • Know which events you might want to avoid to protect your sobriety.

  • Prepare a response for people who offer you alcohol or drugs.

  • Make sure you have an escape plan for when things get especially tough.

Prioritize Your Wellbeing

Have you found yourself burning out, constantly triggered, or beginning to resent the holiday season? Many of us have been conditioned to expect magic and joy throughout the holiday season- and stress ourselves out more than necessary to try to create it.

Know that your mental health and sobriety should be one of your top priorities. If attending certain events, being around specific family members, or stressing yourself out over getting everybody the perfect gift is only leaving you feeling stressed and on the verge of relapse, know that it is okay to step away or take a break.

Set firm boundaries with your family members and friends. If something is triggering you, it is okay to walk away from the entire situation. Your sobriety is more important than any holiday party.

Try to Lend a Helping Hand

If you find yourself struggling with sobriety during the holiday season, lending a helping hand may be just what you need to get your mind off the temptation. You can help out at a soup kitchen, offer your company to the elderly, or share some encouraging words with someone new in your support group. Research shows that volunteering can improve one's social wellbeing and overall quality of life.

Offering your help or support this holiday season can bring you great happiness and help ease the temptations the holidays bring. As you work to help and understand others, you will be able to exist outside of yourself, getting you out of your own head.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

The holidays can be an extremely stressful season. As you likely know, stressful situations can trigger cravings for substances like alcohol or drugs. This is why practicing relaxation techniques may just be the thing that helps you protect your sobriety. There are tons of techniques you can try, like:

- Yoga. While the research surrounding yoga and its effects on substances still has a ways to go, there have been studies that suggest it may be helpful in fighting cravings.

- Mindful meditation. Mindfulness meditation has tons of relaxation benefits- helping those who practice it relieve stress and raise self-awareness around negative thinking processes that may trigger cravings.

- Deep breathing. When you are feeling stressed, your breath may shorten, your heart rate may accelerate, and your stress hormones may begin to kick into overdrive. Breath control can help alleviate the physical symptoms of stress, which just may help you feel more relaxed.

Avoid Situations You Know May Trigger You

If you know that certain family members will not be supportive of your journey to sobriety, avoid being around them. If you know attending that New Year's party will have you on the verge of relapse, skip it. Many triggers during the holiday season are avoidable. Don't let anyone guilt you into putting your sobriety at risk. It is okay to set boundaries and avoid known triggers.

Practice Self-Care

When you forget to take care of yourself, you will become more vulnerable to cravings and triggers. In order to properly fight the temptations that often come with the holidays, you must keep yourself as healthy as possible. You can practice self-care by:

- Moving your body every day. Exercise is a great stress reliever and releases endorphins that will boost your mood and leave you feeling good about your decision to be sober.

- Getting enough sleep. Sleep is a key factor in your overall functioning. When you are exhausted and running off little sleep, you may be more vulnerable to relapse than if you were well-rested.

- Fueling your body. No matter how busy you get, avoid skipping meals and try to make sure you are getting in all the nutrients you need. An under-fueled body will leave you grumpy and stressed, making you more vulnerable to cravings and triggers.

- Giving yourself a break when needed. Your mind and body need to take breaks. You aren't a robot. If you are feeling burnt out or struggling with temptation, give yourself some time to rest. It is okay to have a day full of relaxation.

Get Professional Help When You Need It

If you are the temptation feels to be too strong, consider checking into rehab this holiday season. It is important that you know you are not alone in your struggles this holiday season. Many people struggle with their sobriety during the holidays. Getting the help you need just might be the best thing you can do for yourself. If you are in need of therapy, we are here for you. Contact us today.

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