For teens working hard to maintain their sobriety, the holiday season can be an especially challenging time. While the holidays are typically celebrated with joy, they can also be stressful – and studies show that alcohol and drug use can spike around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Fortunately, there are several coping strategies for teens dealing with alcohol or substance abuse to remain clean and sober during the holidays, such as staying connected with supportive family and friends, establishing boundaries, and avoiding triggers for relapse.
The following tips can help ensure that teens with addiction remain on their path of recovery this holiday season.
1. Stay Connected
It’s important for teens in recovery to remain connected with their close friends and family at all times – and this is especially true during the holiday season, when people are typically pursuaded to “eat, drink and be merry.” A network of supportive loved ones can help a teen remain positive about their sobriety by offering encouragement. If a teen is feeling particularly vulnerable, they can establish a list of people they can call at a moment’s notice for support.
2. Establish Boundaries
Holiday parties are commonly associated with drinking alcohol and other libations, which can potentially trigger a teen in recovery to relapse. This can easily be avoided by simply staying away from people who are imbibing – or avoiding such events altogether. In other words, avoid any people or situations that might potentially trigger a relapse or compromise recovery.
3. Set Time Limits
Teens in recovery who still want to attend holiday parties can do so without compromising their sobriety, simply by setting a time limit of how long they’ll be there. For instance, teens can plan ahead with the intention of arriving late and leaving early; or set a limit of only staying for an hour. Teens can also establish support from loved ones prior to going to a party, and ask a friend or family member to be “on call” just in case a teen needs some extra encouragement to remain accountable.
4. Take a Sober Guest
Teens in recovery don’t have to remain miserable in their sobriety while attending holiday parties where guests are imbibing. Taking a fun, sober guest can help them enjoy the jubilations while having the support system of a friend or loved one at their side. If a teen feels tempted, a sober friend will remind them about the importance of their sobriety and how hard they’ve worked so far – and that a night of fun is not worth compromising their abstinence.
5. Do Sober Holiday Activities
Not all holiday celebrations or traditions are associated with imbibing. In fact, the holidays are filled with alternative, fulfilling activities. For instance, teens in recovery can visit neighborhoods that elaborately decorate their homes with Christmas lights, go to zoos that are decked out for the season, go ice-skating, or volunteer with organizations that help the needy during the holidays, such as Toys for Tots.
6. Attend Support Group Meetings
It’s important for teens in recovery to attend support group meetings – and this is even more important during the holidays when they could be potentially triggered for relapse. Maintaining this support system will remind teens that they’re not alone while giving them the continued encouragement they need.
The bottom line is that teens in recovery can maintain their sobriety in several concrete ways this holiday season. And when the jubilations are over, they’ll take pride in owning their actions – which will help fuel future success.
Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.