Dear Rae: Will the Holidays Derail My Sobriety?

holidays derail my sobriety party scene

Are you afraid holidays will derail sobriety? Have a plan in advance, or consider not going this year!

Dear Rae: I am 92 days drug and alcohol-free. How do I manage my recovery during the upcoming holiday season? There are so many temptations!  Emily B.

Dear Emily:

First, congratulations on 92 days. Three months in recovery brings many benefits, including a positive impact on your major organs, including liver regeneration. During this time, energy levels rise, and overall better health begins. I am glad you’ve written to me and that you have a healthy respect for the challenges the holidays bring for someone new to recovery.


Holidays derail my sobriety


Will the Holidays Derail My Sobriety?

There is no question that this time of year brings additional temptations. It seems like the holidays put demands on everyone to be present and “festive.” Drinking is prevalent at work events, family dinners, and neighborhood parties. Traveling adds additional stress. And the need to host the perfect party or find the ideal gift for loved ones takes precedence over self-care.


There are cocktail parties (even the name is triggering), and drink-heavy gatherings can bring about strong urges.  But you don’t need those old substances to have a festive time. You can take proactive steps to reduce stress and keep moving forward in your recovery.


Bump Up your Support System

During the holidays, reach out to your sponsor, therapist, and support groups more frequently. Also, spend time with others in recovery. Your support system can help you recognize your limits. Talk with sober pals before you go to that holiday party, and plan to meet with them afterward.


Have an Advance-Plan

If you are going to a party where there will be alcohol or other substances, evaluate the situation. Have a plan in advance, or consider not going this year. If you decide to attend, bring a sober friend with you. Drive yourself so you can quickly exit, and you won’t have to wait for a ride. Further, you can arrive early and leave early to avoid prolonged exposure. Or, you can set a timeframe beforehand and clearly state your intentions when you arrive. The holidays are the time to establish healthy boundaries.


holidays derail my sobriety

Drink-heavy gatherings can bring about strong urges!

Prepare Responses and Rehearse Them

If you’re not ready to share your recovery with family and friends, have a strategy for turning down drinks or other substances, as this is when vulnerability is at its peak.


Know your Triggers and how to Manage Them

Take care of your mental and physical health. Be sure to set aside quiet time each day. Fit relaxation and meditation into your day, even for a few minutes, no matter how busy you are. Get enough sleep every night, too. Eat nutritious meals or snacks every few hours to keep your blood sugar up. Low blood sugar can make you anxious or irritable – increasing the risk of impulsive behavior. As a person new to recovery, stay in low-risk situations and avoid high-risk ones.  When you are further in recovery, know your plan for situations that put you at medium or high risk.


Celebrate the Season in a New Way

The holidays will not derail your sobriety if you create new rituals or symbols that help redefine joy in your recovery during the holidays. You can host your own holiday party for recovery friends or your support group. This is a festive time of year to embrace the joy of a restored life, nourish your spirit, and offer the gift of service to others. You have already given yourself and your loved ones something to celebrate — your best self.

Rae Green, JD, LPC, CAADC


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holidays derail my sobriety

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