‘Tis the season for family gatherings and holiday celebrations. For many in recovery, these can be trying times – so many celebrations often include access and even pressure to engage in using alcohol or other substances! But this season doesn’t have to pose a risk to your recovery. Follow these tips on how to stay in recovery while enjoying the holidays.

Make a Plan When Attending Events

Avoid events overly-centered on drinking or using substances to celebrate, but don’t count yourself out of all the seasonal parties that bring so much joy to families and friends. When you plan to attend an event, whether it’s a Friendsgiving or family Christmas dinner, help yourself stay in recovery by thinking ahead. Consider what you need to do or think about before, during, and after the event to remain healthy and on track for your recovery.

  • “Bookend” the event with support meetings or accountability calls. If you attend support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Celebrate Recovery, schedule your attendance at a meeting before the event and share with the group your plans to attend the party and how you’ll remain committed to recovery throughout. Announce that you’ll be back to report after the event has passed. If attending two meetings in close succession is difficult, plan to call your sponsor or a supportive friend before and after the event and be honest about your intentions and degree of success.
  • Rehearse what you’ll say when presented the opportunity to use alcohol or other substances. Even well-meaning party hosts can present challenges to your recovery by offering alcohol or other substances. Some party guests can be downright pushy! By rehearsing what you’ll say when presented with these opportunities, you can stand firm in your recovery and won’t be caught unprepared when the moment comes.
  • Plan your exit to be prepared if the event becomes too stressful. If an event becomes stressful or your fellow guests become uncomfortably intoxicated or pushy, you need to have an exit plan. This might look like telling your host upon arrival that you have to leave by a certain time in the evening or having a friend ready to call you at a certain time or after a text message to call you away from the party. Even if you don’t put these measures in place, plan for a quick and safe exit if you become overwhelmed – ahead of time.

Talk to a Supportive Friend About Triggers and Trauma

This season is complicated for many people by loss or other traumatic memories of holidays past. Sometimes, these stressors become triggers for potential recurrence and threaten recovery. Sharing the complicated emotions of a season with a trusted friend, therapist, or support group can help – even if you simply vocalize that the season is difficult because you recently lost a loved one or are struggling with difficult memories from the past. Keeping these struggles secret may lead to seeking secret coping mechanisms and endangering your recovery. Openness and transparency with trusted friends and support groups not only helps bring light to the challenges you’re facing – you might also find new friends at varying stages of the same struggle.

Focus on Connection with People Who Support Your Recovery

The holiday season often brings busy travel schedules and packed calendars. Don’t let this season of busy-ness be an excuse to lose touch with your support network. The support system that rallies around you at other times of the year are even more crucial during the holidays. Plan to spend time with trusted friends or people from your support groups to ensure that you always have someone to call during difficult times. 

Remember – Recovery is a Lifetime Commitment

Huge Thanksgiving meals and twinkling holiday lights come and go each year, but your recovery is a lifetime commitment. The joy that surrounds this season is made so much brighter by connections to family and friends that remind us even more of the importance of sobriety and recovery. If you’re looking for more resources or need support in your recovery journey, contact us today!