Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays

4.6 min read|912 words|Categories: Addiction & Substance Use, Recovery|
Family and neighbors gather together for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

‘Tis the season of festive parties, reuniting with friends, family gatherings and the excuse to indulge. Thanksgiving and winter holidays bring occasions of beautiful family memories, but they also invite temptations to drink.

Whether you’re days, months or years into your recovery, holiday celebrations can bring overpowering urges to start drinking again. If you’re hoping for tips to bear through the important days ahead (and even find sober ways to enjoy them), you’ve come to the right place. Check out these tips for staying sober during the holidays.

Tips for staying sober

For those in recovery, the next few months have a few challenges in store: the biggest bar night of the year (the day before Thanksgiving, aka “blackout Wednesday” or “drinksgiving”), Thanksgiving itself, Christmas and other religious holidays and New Years’.

1. Know your triggers

Each festivity brings some obvious triggers, like the presence of alcohol and the pressure to partake in holiday merriment, and some that are more hidden, like financial stress or the grief of missing a loved one.

Staying sober during the holidays requires that you do the important work of identifying your own triggers. This isn’t a task you can do the night before, either. Knowing your triggers and the emotions that underlie them takes time. 

When you work towards daily noticing when you have urges to use, you’ll need several weeks to notice patterns and stop them in their tracks. Generally, the best way to identify triggers is with the help of a therapist, counselor or addiction specialist.

2. Avoid the triggers that are in your control

Once you’ve identified your most pressing triggers to consume alcohol, you’ll want to decide on the best way to manage each of them. While avoiding triggers permanently isn’t feasible and will only lead to a cycle of anxiety, there are some triggers that require some serious action.

If you are certain that a particular trigger will lead to drinking, it is necessary to avoid it. Pre-planning could save the progress you’ve made toward recovery, and you’ll be glad you skipped the bar with your friends or left early during Thanksgiving dinner.

3. Anticipate the unexpected

While many triggers can be anticipated, there will always be surprise threats to recovery. The solution isn’t to hide from any unsuspected potential urges to drink but to plan ahead and prepare for them. 

Before attending an event, you’ll want to mentally prepare to run into some difficulty or distress. Whether you are able to elucidate the trigger as it’s happening or the feeling catches you unaware, knowing that it could happen will make it easier to prepare.

4. Prepare yourself

Both expected and unexpected triggers can be combated when you’ve done the hard work and prepared yourself to fight against triggers. Again, much of the work you need to do in advance can be guided by a mental health professional, but you’ll likely prepare with the following.

  • Positive self-talk
  • Objections to negative thinking patterns
  • Coping tools
  • Social support (such as a sponsor or sober friend)
  • Mindfulness
  • Goal setting
  • Constructive decision-making tools

Staying sober during Thanksgiving and the holidays that follow means you’ll want to put in the time beforehand so you can enjoy the time spent with your loved ones. When you have planned ahead you won’t feel on edge, but secure in your recovery.

5.  Plan an out

Another essential step in your preparation requires that you give yourself any outlet you need to avoid falling into alcohol use again. Whether it’s calling a friend, having a uber ride ready, taking a walk outside or having the support of your sponsor, you’ll want to have a plan when worse comes to worst.

6. Practice coping

It’s likely you’ve heard of coping strategies or tools that you can use to minimize distress or temporarily distract yourself from triggers. Coping skills can prevent urges from getting the best of you, but only if you’ve practiced them before and assessed that they are effective at the moment. An unpracticed, ineffectual calming strategy is useless in a time of need.

7. Invite support

Attaining sobriety is a hard-won battle, and enlisting the support of friends and family is one of the best advantages you can give yourself. If you’re attending a holiday event with a loved one who knows your triggers and can help you combat them, you’re much more likely to stay sober this Thanksgiving.

8. Start sober traditions

Holiday celebrations may feel like hard and fast traditions, but you have the power to invent your own, too. If your friends typically hit the bars the night before Thanksgiving, consider hosting a football game in the morning or an alcohol-free party instead. True friends will care more about spending time together than drinking, anyway.

9. Process past holidays

Many people struggle with sobriety during the holidays due to past trauma, grief or loneliness. Face your struggles in therapy to make future holidays smoother and more meaningful.

Staying sober during Thanksgiving with professional help

If you’re worried that staying sober during the holidays is too much to bear alone, check out Pyramid Online Counseling. With flexible scheduling and the convenience of therapy from your own home, you can get to work quickly building strategies to get you through the season ahead without compromising your sobriety.

Reach out to Pyramid Online Counseling today to get started with treatment for substance use.

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