For many people, the holiday season is the most festive and exciting time of the year.  The holidays bring office parties, family gatherings, and delicious food. This time of year, however, also comes with the potential for a great deal of stress.  While celebrating with friends and loved ones is an important part of building relationships and making memories, these festivities often result in family drama, hectic schedules, and emotional turmoil.  Many people deal with the stress and anxiety of planning events, attending large gatherings, and facing unpleasant family members by turning to alcohol. Alcohol use is sometimes encouraged during the holidays to let loose and celebrate, but also to numb the brunt of family pressure and social anxiety.  If you are approaching your first holiday season in recovery, you may be concerned about enjoying yourself and finding ways to relax. Here are six tips for making the most of your sober holiday season.

Always Check in with Your Limitations

If you are in early recovery, it is a good idea to do an honest self-assessment of your mental and physical wellbeing before committing yourself to any holiday celebration.  Holiday parties often come with triggers, whether it be in the form of a coworker pressuring you to drink at an office party, or an old family dispute being brought up at the dinner table.  Try not to put yourself in situations you aren’t ready to handle. If you need to politely decline an invitation to preserve your sobriety, those closest to you will understand. 

Bring Your Own Beverages

It would be nice if every holiday gathering provided a plethora of delicious non-alcoholic drinks to choose from, but we know this is not the reality.  Showing up to a party only to find out that your only option for social sipping is water can be a real bummer, and might even induce some triggering anxiety.  Bringing your own drink is a great way to ensure you have something delicious to look forward to. Tea or your favorite soda works, but being a bit more festive with mulled cider or homemade cranberry and mint soda is even better!

Use Your Recovery Resources

Whether you are brand new to recovery or have been sober for several years, chances are you have made some helpful connections with therapists, sponsors, or others in recovery.  The holidays are a great time to check in with these people even more often than usual, and let them know about events you plan to attend that might be a bit of a challenge for you.  It can even help to bring a sober buddy as your plus-one to holiday parties to hold you accountable and keep you company when everyone else becomes intoxicated.

Enjoy the Perks of Partying Sober

For those of us with a history of alcohol abuse, holiday parties were once a landmine of risks and regrets.  There was always the potential of embarrassment after becoming too belligerent, or worse yet, waking up without any memoires of the night before.  Holiday parties are also a major source of drunk driving arrests and accidents every year. By choosing to stay sober through the holiday season, you can enjoy yourself at parties and events knowing that you will remember every moment with your loved ones, and that you won’t humiliate yourself or others.  It is also a great blessing to know you can safely get yourself home, as well as anyone else who might need a sober driver. 

Don’t Isolate Yourself

While it is a good idea to acknowledge your social limitations in early recovery, it is also important to avoid isolating yourself entirely.  Sometimes staying home can seem like the easiest option, but a healthy human connection is essential for mental wellbeing and emotional strength, both in recovery and throughout the holiday season.  Try to attend at least one or two gatherings over the holidays. If you don’t feel you are ready to be around alcohol at all, talk to your family about eliminating alcohol from all events until you feel more confident in your sobriety.  If all else fails, host your own celebration with those closest to you or your friends in recovery. The holidays should be about spending time with those you care about the most, and sobriety should help make that possible, not prevent it.

Listen to Your Inner Child

The holidays can be heavy with emotion and stress, but allowing yourself to become weighed down with the seriousness of it all can be especially problematic in addiction recovery.  Try remembering what it felt like to experience the holidays as a child, or what you wish the holidays could have been. Holiday movies, baking, ice skating, and hot chocolate can all be filled with magic and wonder if you let them.  Children don’t need alcohol to enjoy the holidays, and in recovery, you can give yourself the gift of enjoying this time of year through the eyes of a kid again.  

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, now is the time to reach out for help.  At Burning Tree, you will find knowledgeable and compassionate professionals that structure treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders.  Through accountability and commitment to the 12 steps, each client will develop the tools to create a sober lifestyle and find lasting recovery. We specialize in the treatment of chronic relapsers and believe with the right support you can experience true and permanent healing.  For more information, call us now at 866-287-2877.