The lights are twinkling. And almost everywhere, the sound of joyful gatherings abound. However, for those who have recovered from addiction, it’s particularly daunting. It’s because of the dual challenge of navigating holiday stress and maintaining sobriety.
One of those facing this situation? We’re here to help. This blog will share tips on how to manage the stress that comes with the season. Our goal is to help you protect that hard-earned healing amid all the festivities and potential triggers.
Understanding the Nature of Holiday Triggers
According to a survey, about 62 percent of respondents admitted to experiencing heightened stress levels during the holidays. In contrast, only a mere 10 percent reported a stress-free season. Among the top reasons they cited are:
- Meeting financial demands
- Navigating family dynamics
- Sustaining personal health habits
These are known triggers that can contribute not just to your stress but also to your cravings. Throw many alcohol-fueled holiday parties and the weight of addiction-triggering memories into the mix and you get a critical scenario that leads to a relapse.
The key lies in identifying your triggers and acknowledging their impact in hindering you from maintaining sobriety during holidays.
The Role of Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Seeking detox and undergoing treatment are critical parts of your journey toward a healthier life. But once you’ve overcome your addiction, it doesn’t mean you’re already immune to relapse.
To counter the potential of succumbing once more into the pits of addiction, you must adopt healthy coping mechanisms. These are important tools that will help you navigate through challenging times, including the holiday season.
You can employ techniques like meditation and journaling to release your tension. When meditating, you give yourself the quiet and calming moments you need to usher in inner peace. In the process, you get to appreciate the simple joys of life — especially a life that’s free of addiction.
Similarly, journaling is a strategy you can use to manage and process your emotions better. Think of it as a therapeutic outlet, allowing you to find clarity and boost your sense of gratitude. This me-time is something you need in a season as busy and loud as the holidays.
Another cornerstone of managing stress in recovery is exercising. According to research, engaging in physical exercise can increase the likelihood of staying abstinent, help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
Tips to Have Fun and Sober Celebrations
While the holidays prove to be a challenging time, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun and enjoy it. Here are essential tips to help you stay sober while embracing the spirit of the season.
As they say, failing to plan and planning to fail. This is especially true in the context of attending holiday parties while protecting your sobriety. To avoid giving in to temptations, decide on a game plan. One of the key things to ensure is the availability of non-alcoholic options. Widening your beverage choices should also be a priority if you’re hosting the event yourself.
Bring Your Own Beverage
Alcohol drinks are central to almost any festive occasion. And if you can’t be sure if there will be non-alcoholic options for you, you must bring your own beverage just to be on the safer side. You must guarantee that you’ll have something to sip on before heading to any event.
Loved ones showing support in recovery are one of the best gifts people in recovery could ever have. When joining holiday parties, it’s important to have supportive friends and family members who are also in attendance. Communicate your triggers and game plan with them so they can help you avoid drinking alcohol when lured to that situation. Having an ally in such situations will allow you to focus more on socializing and staying connected with other event attendees.
Host Your Own Party
Attending a holiday gathering is like a world filled with several possibilities. You may encounter people who encouraged your addiction. Or the event or venue may evoke bad memories that can trigger your addictive behaviors. If you want to have better control over your environment — especially the beverage list — consider hosting your own party. This will help you design a program that aligns with your sobriety goals.
Engage in Fun Activities
To jazz up your celebrations, add sober holiday activities to your program. These will help you focus on fun interactions rather than alcohol. Some ideas include:
- Board or card games
- Trivia or quiz games
- Dance-offs or karaoke sessions
- Themed costume parties (complete with handing out of special awards)
- Photo booth
- DIY crafts
- Story exchanges
You also don’t have to limit yourself to indoor activities. You may consider doing outdoor ones like winter bonfires and friendly snowball fights. The idea is to emphasize that you can still have fun without relying on alcoholic beverages.
Avoid Known Triggers
No matter how much we avoid triggers, there will be instances when we’ll face situations or individuals who might tempt us to drink. The first crucial step is to identify such triggers and, as mentioned, communicate them to your trusted loved ones. Together, you can create strategies on how to handle or, ideally, avoid them. It can include asking a friend or a family member to go to you and pull you out of a triggering conversation when they notice that you’re stuck in one.
Start New Traditions
Many holiday rituals are rather alcohol-centric. To usher in a new era as you embrace an alcohol-free life, it’s only timely to introduce new traditions. It can be as healthy as morning hikes or as meaningful as engaging in charitable activities like clean-up drives. It can also be as indulgent as a movie marathon with loved ones or as artistic as hosting crafting sessions.
Have an Exit Strategy
When you become too uncomfortable or tempted at any event, you must leave gracefully. This is why having an exit strategy is utterly crucial. Apart from identifying and conveying potential triggers, consider setting time limits and coming up with a discrete signal that a trusted companion should watch out for. To facilitate your exit, also ensure that you’ve got transportation service ready to take you somewhere safer.
During the holidays, it’s not only alcohol-centric gatherings that abound. Increasingly, more and more sober communities and support groups are raising awareness and hosting events that are devoid of alcoholic beverages. Find events like that in your area and make attending those a priority. After all, these are more aligned with your goals and values.
Join sober communities or support groups that often host alcohol-free events, especially during festive seasons.
Your hard-earned sobriety is a precious thing to protect. While maintaining it can be particularly challenging when navigating holiday stress and attending alcohol-fueled celebrations, you can avoid it with careful planning and help from trusted loved ones.
To manage your stress and avoid relapse during the holiday, it also pays off to have healthy coping mechanisms. These can include meditation, journaling, and exercising.