Sober Holidays, Sober You

There’s nothing like the holidays, “the most wonderful time of the year…”  This is when most of us prepare for the big family gatherings and make travel plans, spend too much money on gifts, worry about difficult relatives, worry about our diets, but overall, get excited about getting to be around people we love.  There’s a lot of joy riding along with tension, and even the curmudgeons tend to come out of their shells around this time of year.

Photo by Katrien Sterckx on Unsplash

Of course, not everyone will have a chance to see their family and not everyone has a family to see.  Or the family might be so dysfunctional that seeing them is probably the worst idea.  The holidays can be extremely difficult, especially for those of us who struggle with substance use.  Why?  Well, emotions run high—good and bad—and there’s nothing more dangerous for someone with addiction than unruly emotions.  “The most wonderful time of the year” is also the most challenging one for so many of us because, combined with those Big Feelings, there’s also a lot of pressure around to… drink more, which in our culture translates to being jolly and celebratory.  Late in the fall, you’ll suddenly notice marketing for alcohol escalate to ridiculous levels—and everyone seems to be having an amazing time in those ads.  In fact, it seems that in order to have an amazing time is to drink and particularly around Christmas!

This is why it’s really important for those of us in recovery to be extra careful during the holidays.  I’m not trying to be dramatic—I’m being pragmatic.  There’s a much higher incidence of relapses around Christmastime.  Whether it’s the nerves or the illusion that it’s okay to drink because it’s a special time, a number of us tend to have slips and suffer boozy winters that are nothing like what it looks like in the ads.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for those of us who get challenged during Christmas and there are a few survival tips I’d love to share with you:

• At a Christmas party, tell the bartenders and the catering staff that you don’t drink.
• Drink cranberry juice or ginger ale—or anything for that matter, just make sure you have a non-alcoholic drink around you. The overeager hosts will leave you alone if your glass is full.
• If you’re not feeling solid, turn down invitations to go to pubs, bars, or clubs or go with a sober buddy if you absolutely must go.
• Be honest—tell your hosts you’re in recovery.
• Go to a few more meetings if AA is your thing. Share about your worries. Share about your family.

Check out 8 CHRISTMAS FEARS ABOUT ALCOHOL YOU CAN DEFINITELY HANDLE for some more tips on how to survive the holiday sober.

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