Whether you are fresh out of recovery for a drug or alcohol addiction or you have been through the holidays as a recovering addict before, you already know that the holiday season is a time when many people in recovery have a relapse. There are some steps you can take that will reduce your risk of relapsing this holiday season while still having a good time and enjoying your friends and family. Read on for some helpful tips to help you stay sober throughout the holidays and every other day as well.
Have a Plan for Staying Sober
More so than any other time of the year, it’s vital that you have a plan for staying sober. There are no two ways about it: You are likely going to encounter alcohol at some point as you visit people and attend functions this holiday season. You might also encounter drugs, depending on what you’re doing and where you’re going. In addition, spirits are high and people will invite you to do things that you might not have felt comfortable doing since you’ve left the rehab center.
Have a plan for how you will spend your evenings. Know ahead of time that if someone unknowingly offers you a drink how you will respond. If you run into people who you used to party with, know what you will say and where you will go to get away from the situation. Have someone who you can call to come pick you up or to meet you if you’re having a hard time resisting.
Attend Your Support Group Meetings
Continuing to attend your support group meetings might be more important now than at other times of the year. Even if you’ve stopped going regularly, now is a great time to pick up the habit again. The camaraderie is good for you and will remind you of why you wanted to get sober in the first place. In addition, you’ll hear from people who have the same concerns you do. Share your uncertainties and struggles with them and you will likely find that they are a great source of support, different perspectives, and tips.
Choose Your Companions Wisely
You might receive a lot of invitations to gatherings this holiday season, but it’s important to choose judiciously. Find out who will be at these events. Are they people who are supportive of your recovery? If you have made friends through your support group or from rehab, consider spending time with them during the holidays. See which of your friends and family members are supportive. Is anyone willing to have an alcohol-free holiday party? They might be a great person to lean on and to include in your circle of support.
A good tip for staying sober is to avoid people who you used to use drugs or alcohol with. The simple fact is that they might not be supportive. Even if they are, you might feel stressed or tempted to partake in activities that are not good for you.
Avoid Old Hangouts
Just as you should make an effort to avoid people who are not supportive, you also must avoid the places where you used to get high or drink. Your memory will kick in and cravings will likely intensify in these places. Just say no if you are invited to attend a gathering at one of these locations. Remember that your recovery is more important than other people’s feelings right now. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself during this time.
Focus on a Healthy Lifestyle
One of the best tips for staying sober and avoiding a relapse this holiday season is to take good care of yourself. Making sure that you’re in good physical condition will help you not to succumb to any temptation you encounter. Here are some ways you can keep your motivation high and reduce the chances that you will cave to cravings:
- Eat well. If you show up to a get-together hungry or having just snacked on junk food, you might turn to old habits to make yourself feel physically comfortable. Keep up with your good nutrition and focus your diet on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains.
- Get enough sleep. A sleep deficiency makes it difficult to resist temptation. Aim for seven to eight hours per night (nine if you’re under 18). If you have insomnia or you aren’t able to sleep through the night, talk to your doctor about ways to improve your sleep.
- Exercise every day. Getting enough physical activity into your day can relieve stress, make you feel good, and make it less likely that you’ll turn toward old comforts.
Start Some New Traditions
Particularly if you are new to recovery, it’s a good idea to start some new holiday traditions to take the place of the old ones. Talk to your family and friends to find out if they’d be interested in participating in some activities that are appropriate for you and for anyone else who wants to stay sober. If you have trouble coming up with ideas, ask your loved ones. Chances are great that they have some traditions that they’d love to share with you.
To get you started, consider some of these ideas:
- Have a cookie bake. Invite over some friends to bake cookies. If you don’t have space, have them bring ready-made cookies and serve alcohol-free eggnog, coffee, and hot cocoa to enjoy while you munch on new varieties and old favorites. Don’t forget the Christmas music!
- Go ice-skating or sledding. Depending on the area where you or your family members live, you can take advantage of the winter weather. In other areas of the country, building a “snowman” with the sand on the beach will be more realistic!
- Volunteer to help others. You could serve up a holiday dinner at a local soup kitchen or homeless coalition. You could also walk dogs or snuggle kitties at an animal shelter, deliver coffee to exhausted parents at a children’s hospital, or ring the bell for the Salvation Army or another charity.
Talk to your counselor about tips for staying sober through the holidays. If you find that you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone who you think will be supportive and helpful. Remember, your loved ones and your addiction specialists want to see you succeed as you stay sober through the winter holidays and enjoy a fresh start in 2018.
Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and Founder and Executive Director of Paradigm Treatment Centers, who has been a respected leader in the field of adolescent mental health for more than 20 years. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, his Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, his Doctoral degree from Pacific University’s APA approved Clinical Psychology program, and completed his training at the University of California, San Diego’s APA approved psychology internship program.
Dr. Nalin has provided training and mentoring to students entering the field of psychology at institutions of learning including Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, UCSD, Pacific University, and Santa Monica College. He was also instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
Dr. Nalin has appeared as an expert on shows ranging from CBS News and Larry King, to CNN, The Today Show and MTV. He was also featured in an Anti-Drug Campaign for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
Dr. Nalin is a Diplomate of the National Institute of Sports Professionals and a Certified Sports Psychologist as well as a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist. He lectures and conducts workshops nationally on the issues of teen mental health, substance abuse prevention, and innovative adolescence treatment.
In 2017 Dr. Nalin was awarded The Sigmund Freud Foundation and Sigmund Freud University’s Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of his work with youth in the field of mental health over the course of his career.