7 Ways to Stay Sober During the Holidays

Written by Jackie Calkins

The holiday season can be filled with joy and reunions with loved ones, but it is also a source of stress and anxiety for many people. People in recovery from addiction in particular may be concerned about staying sober during the holidays. Even if they manage well most of the time, a Christmas, Hanukkah or New Years Eve event can test the recovery of even someone with a fair number of years under their belt. Holidays may exasperate social anxiety or awaken old insecurities or resentments. They may also mean being away from your usual sober supports and familiar groups and meetings. So what can you do about staying sober during the holidays? Lots of things, let’s dive in. 

1.) Remember What Sobriety Means to You.

You went through a lot to earn your sobriety. It likely came at a high price in more ways than one. Don’t let a moment of weakness or a flash of anger take it away from you. Staying sober during the holidays is something you can definitely do. Think of it as a gift to yourself and an act of self-love that can help you feel more empowered as you head into the New Year.


2.) Stay Connected to Your 12-step Fellowship or Recovery Program. 

Whether you go to meetings or have an online meeting with your network of sober friends to stay sober during the holidays–do what you can. Staying connected with your recovery community can provide critical support, especially if your sobriety is challenged. Tell your sober supports your plans. Agree to text or connect at least once a day. There are meetings just about everywhere now and if you can’t make it to one, an online meeting is better than no meeting. 


3.) Have a Plan and Keep Help Available.

If you know that there is going to be drinking or drugs at an event, plan for how you are going to manage the situation. Ideally avoid it, but if you’re going to be there with family or friends, try to find yourself at least one ally who will help keep you accountable. A person in recovery is best, but someone you trust who understands how important your recovery is to you will work just fine. Have a plan for what you will do if you are tempted. If that means calling a friend or even an Uber to leave, be ready to do that. Staying sober during the holidays sometimes means going the extra mile. Just remember that we never had a problem doing some extra work or inconveniencing ourselves when it meant access to a drink or a drunk. If you pursue your sobriety with the same zeal, all will be well.  


4.) Avoid Triggers Wherever Possible and Practical.

If certain people make it a lot harder for you to stay sober, think about how to avoid them in advance. This is one of the keys to relapse prevention. At the minimum, make sure you won’t be around those people alone, but with a trusted support person. Relapse is more common on holidays than any time of year. It’s better to play it safe if you have any doubts about people, places or things. Stay away from the stuff you know is a trigger for you, whenever and wherever possible. Tell people you trust about what your triggers are so they can help you. 


5.) Be Honest About Your Recovery

Being in recovery is something to be proud of. If you aren’t quite there yet, then at least try not to feel shame about it. The truth is you fought hard for your sobriety and you earned it. You don’t have to tap a glass and announce it to the table, but it’s better for people to know and not offer you drinks or drugs, if you can manage it. If nothing else, you can tell people you cannot partake “for your health” or doctor’s orders. That’s honest without revealing too much about your past, if you want to avoid that. The main thing is to be absolutely clear about your sobriety. “No, I can’t just have a sip.” “Yes actually, one drink WILL hurt.” There can be no compromise when it comes to this. You’re either sober or you aren’t. 


6.) Plan Fun Things To Do While Sober

If the person hosting is understanding, ask them if you can help plan some activities. Choose things you enjoy that exclude drinking or drugs. It could be anything from ice skating or sledding to playing a board game. Ideally it should be a group activity so you don’t isolate yourself. But if part of your plan is taking some quiet solo nature walks, that’s OK too. The key is to figure this stuff out before you go on your holiday trip or visit.   


7.) Practice Self-Care and Be Kind to Yourself

This may be the most important item on the list. Pay extra attention to how you’re feeling and do what you need to to take care of yourself. If you’re feeling anxious or angry, don’t ignore it or try and push those feelings down. Process them. Reach out to a sober support person, even if it means calling the local AA Intergroup or NA hotline to connect to someone in recovery. Be ready to do that. Plug the numbers into your phone before you go. 


Staying Sober During the Holidays is Up To You, But You’re Not Alone

Staying sober during the holidays takes dedication and commitment for sure, but never forget that recovery is a team sport. It’s important to resist the urge to isolate yourself. Ignore the voice in your head telling you that you’re somehow a “burden” to others if you ask for their help and support. You aren’t. Recovery and fellowship only work IF we are all willing to ask for help when we need it and help others when we can. That’s how this thing works and it’s how we can make sure we and the people we care about are staying sober during the holidays. 


If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, JourneyPure can help. Give us a call at  (888) 985-2207 and let’s talk about what we can do for you or your loved one.