If you’re newly sober, there are times when it is difficult to remain so – especially during the holidays. We understand. You are surrounded by friends and family partying or just enjoying a few drinks with dinner or during festivities. It is also a stressful time of the year which can lead to setbacks as well. While it may be hard, here is how to handle the holidays if you’re newly sober.
The Holidays Are Stressful
Being newly sober may be stressful for you. Compound that with the holidays and it may be a potential powder keg. According to Alone Health:
It’s a widespread problem. Nearly a quarter of Americans reported feeling “extreme stress” come holiday time, according to a poll by the American Psychological Association. Holiday stress statistics show that up to 69 percent of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time,” 69 percent are stressed by perceiving a “lack of money,” and 51 percent are stressed out about the “pressure to give or get gifts.”
The entire holiday season of stress doesn’t just include Thanksgiving and Christmas. As far out as Valentine’s Day adds difficulties. There are quite a few reasons for the added stress.
- Lack of money
- Being without family or lonely
- Shopping decisions
- Strained family relationships
- Personal losses
- Seeing people happy when you’re not
That’s just a sample of what triggers are possible during the holidays. Perhaps you are happy you are sober but still miss it, especially during holidays when everyone else seems to be enjoying themselves. Maybe you even think it’s not fair that they can have a drink or use drugs when you can’t. That is certainly understandable but don’t let it blur your vision on your own sobriety.
How To Handle The Holidays As a Newly Sober Person
There are a few things that you can do that help you handle the holidays easier – especially as a newly sober person. Everyone is different and some of these may work better than others, but trying them may really aid in keeping you from breaching your sobriety.
Make a Game Plan
Planning ahead is good for just about anything but especially in this situation. Start by practicing tell others no to drinks or substances. You don’t even have to tell them you are newly sober or in recovery if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. Instead, just give a polite but first “no thank you” to the person offering. You have no need to explain yourself. If your friends or family already know that you are in recovery, they shouldn’t even be offering. Yet, sometimes well-meaning people will do so anyway. Or there is always the chance that even at a family get-together than someone will forget or not know.
You wouldn’t (usually) go on a vacation or trip without planning. The same applies to your sobriety. There are always going to be situations where you may find temptation, especially during holidays. Yet by planning, you can feel more comfortable saying no and staying away from things that threaten remaining drug-free or alcohol-free.
One way to get a head start on your game plan is to arrive a little early, hang out for about an hour, then leave early. This allows you time to get away from the temptation before things get more wild.
And don’t forget to focus on your sobriety each day as you wake up. As part of making your game plan, you should wake up and think about how to stay sober for the day. Take it one day at a time and focus some on the smaller goals. For example, if you know that you’ll be invited to an open bar and you’re an alcoholic, turning down the offer is one step closer to your goal of constant sobriety.
There are two areas where staying busy help you remain sober. One area is at parties or events. If you’re at a party or event and you’re not busy doing something else, you may find that you are more likely to take a drink or illegal drug. Join in some of the festivities. If there is dancing or games, try to participate. If it is a party where people are just socializing, find ways to talk to someone new or offer to help in the kitchen. Even stepping outside away from it all may help you get your bearings and be less tempted.
One way to say no at parties is to bring your own drink and we mean a non-alcoholic kind. It’s not up to the host or hostess to know your needs and besides, having empty hands is a good opportunity for people to offer. Make a drink for yourself and get as fancy as you like. Carry that around with you so you’re still part of the party but you’re not in danger of taking someone else’s drink. And while we’re at it, unless it’s family you always want to be careful of taking drinks from strangers anyway.
Another reason having your own drink is a good idea is that if others see you drinking already, whether it’s an alcohol drink or not, they are less likely to offer you one. In their eyes, you’re all set and don’t need anything.
If it’s while you are home, we realize that this is the place you might feel lonely or sad and want to imbibe. This is the perfect place to keep yourself occupied so you are not focusing on bad thoughts or being sad. Find a television show to binge, play an online game, watch a movie, spend time with your pet,
According to an article on Bustle, a non-profit called Shatterproof offered this advice:
Another thing Fletcher suggests is keeping your hands busy. This can mean offering to help in the kitchen, playing a board game, reading tarot cards, or enjoying your own mocktail. Additionally, Shatterproof notes that taking the focus off of yourself can help make things a little easier.
Keep in mind that the holidays are the perfect time to do volunteer work. Whether it’s handing out food at a soup kitchen during Thanksgiving or spending time with nursing home patients, do something that helps others and also helps yourself.
Know Your Triggers
According to Peter R. Martin, MD on Everyday Health:
Addicts should know their triggers for relapse and how to manage them, Dr. Martin says. The most common triggers correspond to the acronym HALT — when you feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Take care of yourself, mentally and physically, to ward off these triggers.
And speaking of triggers, make sure that you eat regularly. Your mood changes if you’re hungry due to a drop in your blood glucose level. This can lead to you making poor decisions or being tempted by things you might not normal do.
Evaluate the Situation
One way to gauge how well you can handle stressful, holiday situations is to evaluate each situation. If you are newly sober, it is crucial to stay away from high-risk and even medium-risk situations. For example, if your office party is at a restaurant with an open bar, that should be considered a high-risk situation and should be avoided. If you are invited to a party with friends who you usually take drugs with in the past, this is another high-risk situation.
Don’t be afraid to avoid gatherings where you feel that you’ll be grilled over your sobriety. Family members may want the best for you but sometimes they do not realize how to act around you if you’re in recovery. Your aunt may seem judgmental or constantly want to discuss what happened. If you have a family member who pours everyone a drink no matter what, this is another situation where you have to look out for yourself. If you cannot get out of attending or you really want to go, you can carry around a non-alcohol drink or learn to say no and really mean it.
Only you know which situations may be risky but always think about it first. If it seems too risky then pass from going or have a well-thought out plan of action to ensure you do not take that risk unnecessarily.
Watch Your Stress Level
As mentioned, stress is huge for many people during the holidays. If you’re stressed, it is more likely that you may be tempted to do something you might not otherwise. Make sure you take the time to take care of yourself. Whether it is taking a few moments to be alone and decompress or meditation, whatever works for you to control your stress level is imperative to do.
Some good advice found at Help Guide states the following ways to handle stress levels:
Learn how to say “no.” Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress. Distinguish between the “should” and the “musts” and, when possible, say “no” to taking on too much. Avoid people who stress you out. If someone consistently causes stress in your life, limit the amount of time you spend with that person, or end the relationship. Take control of your environment. If the evening news makes you anxious, turn off the TV. If traffic makes you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore do your grocery shopping online. Pare down your to-do list. Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. If you’ve got too much on your plate, drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.
Another way to help with stress is to exercise. Exercise releases dopamine like drugs and alcohol. Not only will your body feel better but it is one way to get a good feeling without resorting to things that are bad for you. And exercise often cures the cravings you have for other things like eating, drinking, and taking substances.
Don’t Discredit Distractions
Sometimes when we are focused on nothing, we are focused on one thing – and that may be drugs or alcohol. Distractions really help and you can easily do something like bring a friend with you to functions where you may be tempted. This should be a friend who doesn’t partake of things that are harmful. If you do not have a friend you can bring, choose to talk to someone at the party who is also not partaking. Choose to stay away from the area where there are drinks (or drugs) and you can even busy yourself with other things like helping out the host in the kitchen or anything that keeps you occupied.
Find a Support System
Attending meetings or talking to your sponsor (if you have one) can help out tremendously when you’re newly sober. If you are having difficulties during the holiday season, there is no better time to lean on that support system. Try to attend meetings at your support group or reach out to your sponsor. We always welcome back our alumni and you can connect with our alumni if you need additional support.
Move Past the Cravings
You may not know this but cravings last approximately 20 minutes. That may seem like a long time but if you can stay strong during those 20 minutes then that craving will pass. Yes, there will be other cravings but take each one as it comes. Find a way to focus on something else so you are not focused on doing the things that hurt your recovery.
Reach Out To Us
We realize that staying sober can be difficult – and especially during the stressful times of the holidays. When you’re newly sober, this may even be more difficult. But we can help you.
The Help For Our Heroes program at Transformations Treatment Center offers holistic nutrition with dieticians, natural supplement protocols, and chiropractic services. We also have a on-site fitness center with a private trainer, beach time, pool time — all in a non-institutional atmosphere.
If you or someone you love suffers from substance abuse and/or depression, contact us so we can help get you or your loved one through it.