The first year of sobriety can be filled with many emotions—some good, some bad and some confusing.
This is especially true during your first sober holiday season. If you are someone who has been drinking for many years, the holidays likely hold triggers for you, meaning certain people, places and events make you feel like you want to return to drinking. When encountering such an array of emotions and triggers, you have the choice to give in or the choice to fight back and maintain sobriety. And the latter is better every time.
But in order to put your sobriety first, it is important to know what to expect as you enter your first sober holiday season. This is because if you know what to expect, you are better able to manage your emotions and reactions in certain situations.
The following are possible situations/emotions you may encounter during your first holiday season sober, and how you may want to confront each.
Expect to feel uncomfortable
Let’s face it, feeling uncomfortable in a situation is never enjoyable. However, it is a little more manageable when you expect to feel that way and can prepare yourself accordingly. When you are entering a situation where others are drinking, such as a typical holiday party, it’s important to know that the situation likely won’t feel natural and easy right away. It may seem hard to relax without drinking, though it is possible. You may feel like the odd one out sipping water or soda, but that’s OK. In fact, it’s normal. What really matters is how you deal with feeling that way. You can continue to focus on feeling like you are being left out, or you can focus on the ways in which you are being included. After all, in order to be there, you had to be invited in the first place. The more normal and at ease you act, the less others will notice anything may be off. Much of how you may feel in uncomfortable situations comes down to mindset.
Be prepared to answer questions about why you are not drinking
If you’ve been a big social drinking in the past and you suddenly stop partaking, people are likely going to notice. Though not everyone will comment about it or question you, some people may. As such, it is important to have a response prepared. Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. But if you feel comfortable telling the truth, people typically accept that and move on. Or, you can simply tell them you are the designated driver or that you are trying to take better care of your body. Those responses are hard to argue, and people likely will respect your response, or even admire it.
Know that you may feel tempted to drink
For many, the holidays can present numerous triggers—whether it be spending time with family members who stress you out, returning to places you’d typically drink, or simply wanting to feel like the life of the party, it’s normal to face cravings or wish things could be different. Simply having these thoughts does not mean you fail at sobriety. In fact, thoughts like these are normal. What matters is how you choose to handle these thoughts. Though you could easily say “screw sobriety” and pick up a drink, there are better ways to handle the stress of triggers. Before entering a potentially triggering situation, have a plan. This may mean having someone to call to work through your thoughts, like a sponsor if you are part of a 12-step group. Or, this could simply mean having a plan to leave the function should you need to do so. It’s important to think ahead in potentially triggering situations so that you don’t find yourself in a circumstance you will later regret.
Remember that it gets easier
Though it may not feel like it in the moment, sobriety does get easier over time. Like most experiences in the first year of sobriety, the first sober holiday season will likely be the toughest. It is important to stay grounded and remind yourself what you are thankful for, rather than focus on what your life is lacking. One way to do this is to make a list of reasons you enjoy the holiday season—reasons that have nothing to do with alcohol. Chances are you can come up with many. Then the trick is to focus in on those reasons and to come to realize that being fully present makes those parts of the holidays all the more enjoyable.
As someone who is sober, taking the time to think about the holiday season ahead of time is vital. It may be difficult, but with the right tools and expectations, you will be able to manage your feelings come out the other side with your sobriety intact, which is something you will not regret.
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