Futures Recovery Healthcare

How to Stay Sober During the Holidays



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We’ve all seen the memes about how 2020 is a “dumpster fire” of a year. But, despite the stress of COVID-19 on top of an election year, many people are embracing the holidays, setting up Christmas trees and other seasonal decor (earlier than ever) and shopping for gifts. While diving into the holidays is a way to elicit joy for some, for others, this time of year can be painful. For both those active in substance abuse and individuals in recovery, the winter holidays can be challenging. 

While many holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, and Christmas invoke the spirit of unity and families coming together, they can present complex issues for both a person with a substance abuse disorder (SUD) and their family. For the alcoholic or addict, they may have deep-rooted hurts and resentments not yet healed. And, in many instances, families have likewise experienced emotional turmoil and chaos that results from someone having the disease of addiction. 

Adding to the pressure of holiday gatherings is the fact that alcohol is often an integral component of many celebrations—and, not just family events. Office parties, social groups, and New Year’s Eve gatherings typically involve and even encourage drinking. 

It’s not just the complexity that comes with holiday celebrations that people with SUD struggle with. Many people with alcohol and drug abuse problems also have a mental illness; this is referred to as a “co-occurring disorder.” According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 7.7 million adults in the U.S. have co-occurring mental and substance abuse disorders. 

Furthermore, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) revealed in a study that 64% of people with mental illness reported that holidays make their conditions worse. 

Despite the challenges the holidays can pose for people with SUD, there are many practical, supportive, and helpful tools to help them remain sober during the holiday season. 

At Futures Recovery Healthcare our entire program is based on offering multiple pathways for recovery. In addition to helping people with substance abuse disorders remember they are not alone during the holidays this year, we offer a safe, secure place to receive treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring disorders (such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, as examples). 

10 Strategies for Staying Sober This Holiday Season

Staying sober during the winter season may not be easy—especially for those in early recovery—but it absolutely can be done. And, many people with SUDs find that over time, holidays in the absence of substances can be even more enjoyable. If you are newly sober, however, and are looking for ways to stay that way amidst a rocky 2020 holiday season, we are here to support you! Our experts have put together a list of tips to help you stay sober, strong, and healthy.

    1. Prepare, Plan, and Appraise
      One major strategy in recovery—holidays or otherwise—is to make sure you are prepared and have a plan to protect your sobriety. It also means being honest with yourself about what you may be walking into. For example, if you are invited to a friend’s Christmas party that promises “free and flowing drinks for all,” are you honestly in a mental and emotional space to attend and refrain from drinking? If the answer is no, honor that. True friends will understand and support your polite decline to attend.As a different example, let’s say your family of origin invites you to a Hanukkah gathering, but you feel unsure whether you will be triggered by certain family members. You want to go, but know that fighting can often come with the territory at these events. Here is where you can prepare a plan that involves one or more of the tips below (taking your own car, asking a recovery friend to meet you, etc.). 


    1. Arrange Your Own Transportation
      Tempting as it may be to pile in a family member’s or friend’s car to trek to different holiday events, having your own mode of transportation enables you to be in control of when you come and go—which is extremely important—especially if you feel triggered or uncomfortable in a situation. 


    1. Invite a Friend in Recovery
      Just as misery loves company, recovery encourages recovery. Don’t be afraid to ask another trusted friend in recovery to join you when attending a holiday event. Make sure you choose someone who is passionate and committed to staying sober who will help you remain accountable to your sobriety. 


    1. Tell Your Sponsor or Accountability Partner
      In 12-Step recovery, many people have a sponsor or “trusted friend,” who helps them in various aspects of sobriety. One of the ways a sponsor encourages sobriety is by helping their “sponsee” remain accountable.Informing your accountability partner where you are going, what type of event it is, and when you plan on leaving (maybe even throwing in a mid-party text), will not only help you feel safe, it will also help you remain committed to your recovery. 
    2. Hit a Support Group Meeting
      Whether it’s a 12-Step meeting, spiritual support group, or other recovery resources that help reinforce your sobriety, attending a group session prior to a holiday party can boost insurance against a potential relapse. Some people also find it helpful to dive into recovery-oriented reading material prior to a holiday event—such as the Living Sober book (that has a chapter dedicated to “Being Wary of Drinking Occasions”). 


    1. Bring Your Own Beverages
      Many people in recovery find it helpful to bring their own drinks (sparkling water, soda) to a holiday party. This helps reduce the temptation to order or get an alcoholic drink from the cash bar, or the chance of someone mistakenly switching or refilling your glass. 


    1. Come Early, Leave Early
      As many people in recovery likely remember, the later in the evening, the tipsier (or wasted) partygoers become. Even the most dedicated sober person can find themselves uncomfortable being surrounded by intoxicated people. Arriving early and leaving early often protects you from experiencing reminders from your days of using. 


    1. Avoid Resolutions
      While some people look forward to making New Year’s resolutions, doing so may trigger stress and discomfort. For example, if you vow to quit smoking on a certain date, but then don’t, it can cause disappointment which can later lead to resentment. Once resentment takes over, it may trigger you to pick up your substance of choice.Instead of resolutions, some recovering people find it helpful to make a list of accomplishments (like staying sober!) or gratitude lists. 
    2. Up Self-Care
      Stock up on favorite books, watch feel-good movies, get a manicure, exercise, explore creative outlets. Taking care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally will help you get through tough holiday encounters, and can be used as replacements for events you simply don’t feel are healthy for you to attend. 


  1. Feel Free to Change Your Mind
    Even if you have already committed to attend a holiday party, if you feel vulnerable, angry, sad, or uncertain, you have the right to change your mind. Your sobriety comes first and foremost. It’s always okay to honor how you feel, even if that is saying no, or deciding not to do something at the last minute. 

Need Help Now? 

Many newly sober people, and those in long-term recovery, are able to navigate the challenges that come with the holiday season successfully. For others, however, who may still be actively using alcohol or drugs, the holidays can be excruciating.  

If you or a loved one needs help for substance abuse now, It’s important to know that you are not alone. Many people seek treatment for SUDs during the holidays. Futures offers multiple pathways of addiction treatment and wellness programming. This includes inpatient detoxification and residential treatment, and outpatient services by qualified, experienced professionals in substance abuse and mental health disorders.  

Many people suffering from addiction go on to live fulfilling, joyful lives. Start your journey today. Contact us confidentially online or by phone at 866-804-2098.


Our team is here to guide you through your path to recovery.

call now CALL NOW
(866) 351-7588
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