It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, it’s not the summer, it’s the holidays! Halloween has already come and gone, and Thanksgiving was quickly behind it. Before we know it, it will be New Year’s Eve. These next few months are a trying time for those of us in recovery. The holidays can bring up all types of emotions, sometimes we miss our family and friends, sometimes we aren’t sure how to act around them, and other times we must participate in events and parties where alcohol or other drugs might be present. Don’t be discouraged; you are not alone. Even though the holidays might be a tough time for you, there are steps you can take to stay sober.

Step 1: Put it in perspective

Yes, the holidays are an important time in life, but they aren’t everything. There is no need to be stressed out to the max over one holiday season in your lifetime. The first step to staying sober during the holidays is to realize the age-old phrase “this too shall pass” is true. My recommendation is to treat the holidays like any other day of your recovery, don’t give it special attention or stress, because it too will pass! It’s just another 24 hours of recovery.

Step 2: Have a plan

This step is crucial. You want to do your best not to get caught off guard. Prepare yourself for any situation and what you would do if it happened. Having a plan includes knowing what you will do if you feel uncomfortable, always having a ride or a way out of a party or event, and a list of drinks you would order that don’t have alcohol. Turning down a drink should also be in your arsenal. The most important of these is an escape plan. You should always have a way to leave and don’t be afraid to use it. If you feel uncomfortable, tempted, or upset at the thought of being in the presence of alcohol or drugs this holiday season, you have every right to leave and go home right away. Your plan should include other action items like calling another sober friend, going to a meeting, exercising, or meditation.

Step 3: Put your recovery first

It’s not selfish to put your recovery first, it’s necessary because if you’re not in recovery, you can’t be the best version of yourself.

By having a plan and sticking to it, you’ll be putting your recovery first. This is extremely important for staying sober at any time, but especially during the holidays. You need recovery to remain successful in your everyday life, so it’s as essential as breathing. Treat it that way. If this means you have to skip certain get-togethers or avoid certain people, places, or things because that might trigger you, so be it. It’s up to you to protect your sobriety.

Step 4: Be ready to address your sobriety

If you’re attending holiday parties with friends and family and alcohol is present, chances are you might be offered a drink or asked why you aren’t drinking. When I was in early sobriety, these situations stressed me out, and I thought a lot about them before I entered social environments. When I was only a month or two sober, I felt self-conscious talking about my sobriety so I would make up excuses like, “Oh I have to get up early for a 5k,” or “I’m just not drinking tonight,” or “I’m on a cleanse.” Honestly, I wasn’t sure how long I was going to stay sober at that time, so these responses worked for me. Once I hit six months, I felt more comfortable telling my close friends and family that I would no longer be drinking. You might be met with some concern and confusion at first, but remember you don’t have to justify your sobriety to anyone. If it feels good to you and your life is better, then those are the only reasons you need. It might help to have an idea of what you might say ahead of time if you are asked about your sobriety.

Step 5: Embrace the gratitude

When all else fails, remember why you started this journey. It might help to write down a daily gratitude list around the holidays to remind you why you are grateful for your sobriety and why it’s worth it to you. Another thing that can make you feel grateful is helping others. When you’re consumed by your own thoughts, the best medicine is reaching out to someone else. You could volunteer with any local organization that needs help during the holidays, you could chair a meeting, tell your recovery story, or cook a meal for the homeless. Getting out of yourself and focusing on others is a sure way to keep you sober and help spread positive energy.

Remember, the holidays aren’t a good excuse to drink. They are a great excuse to spend time with family and friends and spread holiday cheer. Keep your sobriety as a priority, and it will always be safe. You’ll thank me later. Happy Holidays!

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