Protecting your sobriety during the holiday season and beyond….

The holidays can be a joyful time, and they can be a stressful time. For a person in early recovery from a substance use disorder, the holidays can be especially difficult, having to deal with the stress of the holidays without their usual way of coping. If this is you, take a moment to read about some ideas to help you stay sober during the holidays and beyond.

First, lean on your recovery support. Attend extra meetings if needed. Stay connected with your sponsor, recovery coach, supportive friends and family. Use the HALT acronym. Hungry: eat something that will fuel you, not just fill you. The extra goodies that come out around the holidays will throw off your sugar levels, leaving you vulnerable to feeling “off”. Angry: Talk about it! Suppressed feelings will come out eventually, and most likely not in a good way. Lonely: The holidays can be a lonely time, but that does not mean you have to be alone. Connect with those who are safe for your recovery. Get involved in volunteering, find events within the recovery community that will help you be social in a safe way. Tired: Get quality sleep. Often our sleep schedules are thrown off as we make time to visit, shop, etc… Keep a regular sleep routine – go to bed and wake up the same time each day, and make sleep a priority.

Some other ideas:

Have a plan. Invite someone in recovery with you to events and gatherings. BYOB – bring your own beverage. Set a time limit for the event – when you’ll arrive and when you’ll leave, and stick to it.

Keep a consistent daily routine.

Engage in healthy leisure activities – whatever you enjoy doing during your free time. These activities help balance your time, providing an outlet for emotions, and a respite from the hustle and bustle of the season. Exercise, yoga, music, photography, art, anything that you enjoy, or try something new!

Know your limits. Recognize the signs of “stinkin’ thinkin’”, and your own warning signs of relapse. There are three specific warning signs to watch out for – isolation, reduction of healthy activities, and lack of sober support. If you notice yourself heading toward doing these (making excuses to not do what you’ve been doing for your sobriety), take the necessary steps to get back on track.

Lastly, keep your sobriety your number one priority! Be selfish if you need to, and take time away from the holiday festivities to do whatever you need to protect your sobriety. You are the only one who can do this.

Remember: “This too shall pass” The holidays will be over before you know it!
Bonus: If you have a loved one or friend who is in recovery, be supportive and encouraging. Try not to take it personal if they decline your invitation. They may not be ready yet and need to avoid certain situations in order to maintain their sobriety. Better yet, plan a substance free activity you can do together!

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