Alcohol flows freely during the holiday season. Work parties, family events, dinners with friends, and other gatherings designed to celebrate the season often have alcohol at their core. Wine, spiked eggnog, red and green cocktails, and seasonal beer are given as gifts and consumed with abandon. And then there’s New Year’s, arguably one of the drunkest holidays of the year.

Unfortunately, during the holidays, people tend to drink more than they would ordinarily. It’s not difficult for a few holiday parties to add up to serious binge drinking, according to PsychCentral. Four or more drinks in one period for a woman, and five or more drinks for men, is all it takes to get into the danger zone with alcohol.

For people in recovery, it can be a risky time. The constant inundation with alcoholic beverages at every turn can make it difficult to remain relapse-free throughout the holiday season. Getting through all the holiday celebrations and then through New Year’s Eve without drinking or getting high is a true feat. How can you make it easier for yourself to get through the next few weeks as simply and smoothly as possible without relapse?

Family Matters

Family dynamics can be difficult at any time of the year, but during the holidays, the guilt and blame can flow a bit more freely than usual. Fueled by alcohol and tension, many families find themselves embroiled in arguments during this time of year, and a simple family meal can quickly turn into an explosive – and triggering – event.

The urge to escape the situation or the feelings that it causes by drinking or using drugs is arguably a natural response, but when you are in recovery, you can fend off this impulse by recognizing the potential trigger for relapse and taking precautions to help yourself stay sober.

  • Just say no. Do you have to attend every children’s concert, family dinner, or gift opening event that your family holds? Give yourself permission to gracefully bow out of one or two – or five – redundant family holiday events to keep your stress level lower.
  • Avoid arguments. Even if argumentative relatives try to pull you into a fight, you can always keep your responses neutral. Using phrases like, “That must be hard for you,” “I’m sorry to hear that,” or “I’m sorry you feel that way,” can convey that you heard the person without engaging or amplifying the conversation.
  • Bring backup. Do you have a cousin, sibling, or favorite aunt who is a positive person in your life? Make sure they’re in attendance so that you have someone safe to hang out with.

Work and Other Obligatory Events

The ubiquitous office party. The private parties held by coworkers. Company events designed to boost morale and provide a place to let off some steam. They may seem like innocuous events but they can be stressful if you don’t want to be there. Like family events, you can choose to bow out gracefully or bring backup to help you get through the event. You can also:

  • Bring your own beverage. Make sure that you have something in your hand by bringing your favorite non-alcoholic beverage. Staying for a short time? A cup of coffee will do it. Expecting to put in a couple of hours? Bring a six-pack of soda or some sparkling water.
  • Have an after-party plan. You may not be able to avoid the obligatory event entirely, but it’s perfectly acceptable to have another obligation that forces you to cut the evening short. Whether it’s a 12-step meeting, another social event, or something else entirely, knowing that you have somewhere to go afterward can help you get through the event without drinking.
  • Have your story in place. You will likely be plied with offers of alcohol throughout the night – or perhaps something stronger – and you may or may not wish to talk about your sobriety or why you no longer drink. Come up with a pithy one-liner in response to keep it light and avoid ending up with a drink in your hand.

Give Yourself the Gift of a Low-Stress Holiday

Though you may not be able to sidestep every uncomfortable holiday gathering or avoid having multiple, well-meaning people encourage you to drink this holiday season, you can improve your ability to manage the stress and shore up your ability to stay sober. Some steps you can take include:

  • Maintain healthy habits. Going to bed and getting up at the same time, eating healthfully, and keeping up with your exercise routine will all help you to maintain your energy and overall wellness.
  • Prioritize your recovery. No matter how many holiday events you are invited to, don’t cut out your drug rehab therapy sessions, drug treatments, and/or 12-step meetings. Should they be canceled due to the holidays, look for alternative ways to keep up with your recovery actively.
  • Rededicate yourself to recovery. The new year is coming, and it’s an excellent time to create a new resolution in your recovery. Incorporate a new therapy into your weekly schedule, increase the number of meetings you go to every month, take on a sponsee, or amp up your volunteer efforts in the community.

No matter what stressors come your way now or in the new year, the best way to avoid relapse is to keep your focus on the possibilities for the future and stay actively engaged in your recovery today.

The Recovery Village offers full-spectrum addiction recovery services that include detox programs, behavioral therapy and aftercare.  Contact us today.