The winter holidays – the period from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day – can be the most stressful time for people in recovery from alcohol addiction. Whether you’re newly sober or have quadruple-digit days of sobriety under your belt, the celebratory atmosphere can be stressful for many. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. With planning and a mindful focus on what is truly important to you, you can not just survive but thrive and enjoy the holidays as a recovering alcoholic.
What Makes the Holidays a Trigger For So Many Alcoholics?
The whirlwind of parties, family gatherings, and large, indulgent meals often includes a proliferation of alcohol. People that don’t often drink tend to drink more to get into the party mood or let loose after a long year, and people who are regular drinkers may overindulge more than usual.
Having alcohol at most holiday gatherings is a big temptation for recovering alcoholics. Many are unsure how to turn down a drink without disclosing that they’re in recovery. If work parties serve alcohol, then the conversation can be even more tricky. Some people may accept a drink and tell themselves, “I’ll just hold it,” or “a few sips to be social won’t hurt.” Unfortunately, thoughts like this can tip someone into a relapse.
Family gatherings may be another trigger for people in recovery. If you have a strained history with certain family members, or if your behavior, while you were in active addiction, created strained relationships, then the stress and emotions that flood your mind at family holiday events can trigger an urge to drink. Or, perhaps, you feel like everyone in your family is watching you and judging the strength of your new sobriety. Having a supportive partner or loved one with you during these events can help you feel more secure when you feel triggered.
Tips to Avoid a Holiday Relapse
Support during stressful and triggering times is your key to thriving during the holiday season. Before the rounds of festivities start, work with your sponsor or therapist to create a relapse prevention plan tailored to the events you anticipate being a trigger. Play the tape forward: who will be there, and what awkward conversations could happen? Prepare yourself with responses to questions about why you aren’t drinking or how your recovery is going. And have a few replies ready when someone offers you a drink.
- Bring a sobriety buddy as your plus-one to work events, and work out a code ahead of time if you need to leave for a few minutes to collect yourself or if you need support
- Ask your host to stock tasty, non-alcoholic treats, like sparkling cider, Italian sodas, or even hot chocolate, so you have something celebratory to sip on
- Avoid events that you fear may trigger a relapse
Stay involved with your support group – everyone else will be facing similar holiday stressors, and sometimes, being here for someone else who is struggling can make your journey easier, too.
Do You Need Help For an Alcohol Addiction?
Hickory Treatment Centers provides evidence-based treatment no matter how severe your addiction is, including full-day and intensive outpatient therapy. Our programs include relapse prevention strategies and family counseling, which can be invaluable during the holiday season. Call us today for a confidential conversation about how we can help.