Addiction and the holidays often go hand in hand. This time of year can be mentally exhausting, and many people — particularly those with mental health conditions — often find it hard to cope. They turn to drugs and alcohol for stress relief.
Relapses are common during the holidays, but it’s also when many substance abuse problems begin. Fortunately, you can find ways to combat drug or alcohol abuse around the holiday season. Here are 15 tips that may help you or someone you love stay clean and sober.
1. Make a Plan Ahead of Time
You probably have family and friends who enjoy celebrating the holidays with alcohol and/or other substances. The opportunities for drinking and using drugs are plentiful at this time of year. But that does not mean you have to give in to temptation. You can break the connection between addiction and the holidays in your mind.
However, you are much more likely to give in if you don’t have a plan in place. Begin thinking of how you will navigate holiday parties and get-togethers before the invitations even arrive.
2. Identify & Avoid Your Triggers
Now is a perfect time if you haven’t spent time thinking about what triggers you to want to drink or use drugs. Your triggers could be anything, including people you spend quality time with or places you frequent this time of year.
Write your triggers down and plan to avoid them. This might result in hurt feelings, but your sobriety is of utmost importance.
3. Attend Local Meetings
Attending AA or NA meetings is a great way to help yourself get on and stay on track during recovery. You may already be attending a weekly meeting, but consider attending more than one.
Your area likely has meetings scheduled every day of the week, and sometimes more frequent meetings can help. You may even meet some new people who can offer you additional support. It helps to know you’re not the only one struggling with an active addiction during the season.
4. Lean on Your Support System
Who are the people in your life who love you and want what’s best for you? Those people are your support system; you need them more than ever during the holidays.
Finding one or two people within your support system who will hold you accountable may be helpful. Ask them to check in with you regularly to see how you’re doing, and let them know that you’ll be leaning on them more than usual.
5. Set Clear Boundaries
Inevitably, you may come across someone who doesn’t understand your commitment to sobriety. That person may, for example, offer to buy you a drink and find it difficult to take no for an answer when you refuse.
Rehearse how you will decline their offer before you find yourself in this situation. Saying, “I’m committed to staying sober this holiday season, but I’d love a regular Coke!” is a great way to communicate your commitment to no substances.
If that doesn’t work, know it’s perfectly acceptable to excuse yourself and walk away politely.
6. Invest in Your Health
The holidays are a great time to begin some healthy habits and focus on self-care, especially if you need a distraction from substance use disorder. Once you have some time invested in eating healthier food and getting regular exercise, it will be harder to undo all that work later.
We recommend setting some goals to work toward, which will help you stay on track. For example, if you want to lose weight, set a goal for X pounds lost by January 1.
7. Consider Going to Rehab for Drug or Alcohol Addiction
If you’re in a place where you’re trying to stay sober, but it’s not working, or you want to get sober, you may want to consider going to rehab over the holidays.
It may seem strange to think about beginning an addiction treatment program this time of year. However, because addiction and the holidays are so closely linked, it’s a great time to focus your attention on getting sober.
If you’re looking for an evidence-based addiction treatment program, Olympus Recovery can help. We offer personalized treatment plans, and you’ll reside in our community apartment building while you work on your recovery. Please call us at (888) 979-1805 for more information.
8. Spend Time with Sober Friends & Family Members
Everyone loves spending holidays with their closest friends. However, if certain family members and friends typically celebrate with alcohol, you might need to keep those get-togethers to a minimum.
You don’t need to feel left out of the festivities. Make a plan to spend time with other friends who are committed to remaining sober during the holidays. You’ll be able to help each other stay focused on your goals.
9. Form New Traditions
Maybe you’re not looking forward to the annual family Christmas party because you know alcohol and possibly even other substances will be readily available. Why not start your own traditions this year, substance-free?
Consider inviting your family to a big Christmas cookie-baking party, a fun movie, or a game night. Just let them know ahead of time that your event will not involve any substances, including alcohol.
10. Incorporate Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation are useful tools all year long, but they can be especially helpful during the holiday season. It’s vitally important for you to take care of your thoughts, and staying mindful allows you to focus on the present moment.
Meditation will help you keep your mind calm and reduce any holiday stress that might otherwise send you running toward drugs or alcohol. We recommend doing this every single day.
11. Find a Volunteer Opportunity
The holidays are a great time to volunteer, and there are probably many opportunities available right where you live. Volunteering at a hospital, a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, or a church offers many benefits that aid in sobriety.
Not only will you be doing something kind for someone else, but you’ll also realize how blessed you are. The simple act of volunteering is a way to give back to your community and serves as a reminder of how far you’ve come in your sobriety.
12. Decline Invitations, if Necessary
If you’re like many people, the invitations to holiday parties and gatherings begin arriving shortly after Thanksgiving. In previous years, you may have tried to pack your holiday schedule with events as much as possible so no one felt slighted.
However, when recovering from substance abuse, sometimes you have to turn down holiday events. And this is never truer than during this time of the year.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t think you should attend the company Christmas party this year or if you must pass on your best friend’s New Year’s Eve party. Most of the time, people understand their loved ones’ need to avoid addiction and the holidays.
13. Have an Escape Plan
If you do attend parties where alcohol or drugs are available, and you have a plan in place to avoid using, you should still have a way to escape. You may need to come up with a little white lie to use in sticky situations, but it’s worth it. Simply make a polite excuse and exit gracefully.
14. Keep a Non-Alcoholic Drink in Your Hand at Parties
If you have concerns about people offering to get or buy you drinks when you go to parties, always keep an alcohol-free drink in your hand. People will be much less likely to offer if they see you already have a drink.
However, if that doesn’t work, say no. No other explanation is necessary, and your real friends won’t pressure you.
15. Take Care of Your Mental Health
It’s important to emphasize that while the temptation to use substances during the holidays sometimes comes from outside influences, you may also tempt yourself. It is vital that you make your mental health a priority, especially around the holidays.
Take note of when your therapy appointments are and keep them. Talk with your therapist and trusted friends about how you’re doing. Journal regularly. Stay healthy, eat rich foods, and exercise several times each week.
If you start to feel sad or depressed, it’s easy to turn to substances for relief. Use your relapse prevention plan to avoid giving in and maintain sobriety.
Stay Sober This Holiday Season
At Olympus Recovery, we want nothing more than for you to have a blessed holiday season. It’s so easy to have a setback this time of year; unfortunately, many people do. But addiction and the holidays do not need to go together.
By keeping these tips in mind, you’re well on your way to experiencing the holidays with the ones you love without substances getting in the way.
We can’t think of a better gift to give yourself than the gift of sobriety. If you are considering addiction treatment, we can help. Please contact us today.