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Trying to Stay Sober This Holiday Season? We Can Help.

Tips for staying sober, preventing relapse and avoiding the holiday blues

While the holidays are filled with festivities, these same celebrations and traditions can also be a source of stress, especially for those navigating early sobriety. Drug and alcohol use can be more prevalent throughout the holidays as a result of this stress, leading to an increased number of high-risk situations during the otherwise intended positivity.

Preparing for the holidays and implementing strategies to navigate this time safely is paramount throughout the recovery process, and while it can be difficult to embrace the changes that the holidays demand, it is also necessary to continue prioritizing one's sobriety and future.

Preparing for the Stresses of Holidays

Before one can prepare for the holidays, it is important to recognize how the holidays present unique hurdles. For some, getting together with extended family can be a stress on its own. Large groups can be difficult to manage, and there can be many unknowns when large groups are together. As those in recovery are still learning to better communicate and navigate social situations, these large gatherings can be incredibly intimidating with the wide variety of opinions and acceptance surrounding words like “addiction” or the recovery process.

Others may have old traditions that need to be adjusted, amended, or dismissed around the holiday season due to their associations with the use of addictive substances. While watching a football game or putting on a movie may be innocent enough traditions, if one is used to drinking beer during these activities, participating in these traditions can bring up many unnecessary urges and cravings, even if the party itself is sober. Not only does this mean that one's regular traditions are compromised, but it can also bring a wealth of open time that needs to be filled with new holiday celebrations.

Even the act of gift-giving can be stressful. While giving gifts can be a powerful resource for reestablishing relationships in one's sobriety, there are also a number of stresses associated with the practice. For some, the pressure of finding a gift that one believes is “sufficient” can be stressful on its own, while others may be concerned about the financial component, worrying about balancing one's finances while feeling pressured to take on these extra expenses during the holidays.

Navigating the Familial Component

One's family can present either an unnecessary hurdle or a supportive force throughout recovery, and the holidays are no different. While going to family gatherings can be stressful, it can be powerful to instead host a holiday event oneself, which comes with various advantages for one's continued sobriety. Having a holiday celebration in one's own home can ensure that one's resources and recovery toolkit are available if needed, and one can keep safe areas like their bedrooms or other spaces close by and accessible in case of unforeseen stressors.

Hosting one's own holiday festivities also allows for an individual to manage the guest list. While guest lists are still kept under tight regulation due to the continued impact of COVID-19, these limited guest lists can be an advantage to those navigating their sober holidays. By limiting the guest list, one can better select individuals who are knowledgeable and supportive of the recovery process, ensuring that there are fewer barriers between oneself and the holiday festivities. It also allows the celebrations to be carried out in a sober environment of one's control.

Creating New Traditions

Developing new traditions for the holidays is essential. For those navigating their sobriety, putting as much distance between one's current, sober self and past routine is necessary for continuing to prioritize one's sobriety, and this means dismissing old traditions to create new, sober activities around the holidays. Creating new traditions wholly separate from one's past use can take any number of forms, and working alongside friends and family members can help ensure that these traditions are well accepted by those most important to one's continued sobriety. Deciding on new traditions tied to the spirit or history of the holidays specifically, incorporating some of one's newfound interests or hobbies, or using this time of year to explore a new cultural experience can all be ways to make the holidays into something new with sobriety at the forefront of one's mind.

Managing Gifts and Expectations

Gifts are powerful acts of caring and appreciation. However, there are also stresses associated with them. Setting a budget ahead of time can help those in recovery take the edge off of the stresses associated with purchasing a gift, and getting one's friends and family to agree on a budget can also ensure that an individual feels like they are giving and receiving in equal measure. However, there are other ways to give thanks during the holidays.

Gifts don't have to be limited to something to unwrap during the holidays – they can also be experiences like a home-cooked dinner or a hand-made expression of thanks. Essentially, they can be anything that another person might appreciate. For those in recovery, considering the variable forms of gift-giving can open new ways to communicate one's thanks for another's support and care along their sober journey.

Seven Tips for Staying Sober*

1. Hatch a holiday escape plan, and plan to protect your sobriety

The first tip sounds like a no-brainer, but plan ahead. Holiday-themed parties and family gatherings are often soaked in alcohol, and people are likely to offer you a drink—and they might be dumbstruck when you prefer to be sober. Plan ahead for uncomfortable situations and triggering environments. What might your holiday plan involve?

  • Attend a Twelve-Step meeting beforehand, or invite a sober friend to tag along

  • Make plans to meet up with your sponsor or talk on the phone

  • Find your own transportation, or hitch a ride with someone in your support system

  • Limit your time around stressful situations and difficult people

  • Prepare to politely refuse alcohol or other drugs

  • Have an escape plan if things go south

Don't be surprised by a trigger. If you come prepared to protect your sobriety, you should be able to outmaneuver addiction and avoid any potential relapses.

2. Rewrite the holiday story in your head

3. Want to stay sober? Stay helpful

4. Be mindful of what you're drinking—and thinking

5. Some triggers and traps are optional

6. Practice self-care throughout the holidays

7. If you need treatment for addiction to alcohol or other drugs, consider going to rehab over the holidays

The holiday season is a time of celebration, but for those in recovery, this time of year comes with many new stresses and changing expectations.

At Chateau Recovery, we understand the unique perspective that those suffering from addiction or mental health disorders have this time of year. We are prepared to help you take the first steps towards controlling your holiday season and making the most of its positive tidings.

Your time with us can be focused on your personal needs and goals, helping you to develop the strategies most pertinent to your situation as you navigate the holiday season and beyond. Individual and group therapy, yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices, and much more – all backed by our comprehensive case management and supportive, communal atmosphere – are ready to help you today.

For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your situation, call (435) 222-5225.

*Seven Tips Reposted from -

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