We in recovery know that unexpected situations—“life on life’s terms”—can arise at the drop of a hat… but this is especially so during the holiday season. Whether it be while you’re making plans for a holiday gathering, doing some extra cooking, having guests over, visiting relatives, or simply gift-shopping, the additional stress and anxiety so common for people around this time of year can become a trigger to “acting out,” even for those with a substantial amount of “clean and sober” time (let alone those who’ve recently completed treatment).
Don’t worry, though… Here’s a useful array of helpful recovery reminders to ensure your holidays are as “sane and serene” as possible, while you’re safeguarding your sobriety.
Make a plan that includes action steps to help you stay committed to your abstinence and recovery, no matter what.
One of the best ways to ensure you’ll maintain your sobriety throughout the holidays is to create a plan that focuses on your “recovery accountability.” Starting today, contact someone in your recovery network and ask him/her to be your “recovery partner” from now through January 2nd (that is, “into the New Year”). Tell them you’ll commit to calling them at least once a day to give them a status report about how you’re doing (I like to include how I’m doing mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually) and what my “plan of action” is for the rest of the day, particularly the steps I’ll be taking to bolster my recovery and ensure I stay sober and connected to my Higher Power (and wherever applicable, connected to those in my recovery network), until I go to sleep that night. Having a plan you can turn to—and be held accountable for—if a dicey situation arises can literally be a life-saver during the holidays.
4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before you attend a holiday-related party or event, it’ll be good to genuinely reflect on a few salient questions:
- What is the event really all about?
- What are my motives for attending?
- Will there be ‘alternative’ (non-alcoholic) drinks there or should I bring my own?
- Is this event appropriate for my stage of recovery?
Knowing in advance why you’re attending a holiday gathering and that you’ve got options to drinking alcohol there can help strengthen your commitment to staying sober throughout the event and returning home with your recovery safely intact.
Precautionary Actions You Can Take Certainly, there are many ways you can prudently prepare yourself for going to a holiday party or event. Here are a few suggestions (see list below) from which you can choose to follow through on, depending upon their relevance to your situation:
- Have an exit strategy, just in case you get too uncomfortable (e.g., fake you have another engagement to attend).
- Make sure your car is not parked in a spot where it is blocked in by other cars.
- Don’t volunteer to be the designated driver, since that requires you stay until the end of the event.
- Have your own transportation or means of leaving the event.
In summary, for those of us who know we have a substance use disorder (a.k.a. chemical dependency or addiction to alcohol or drugs), the “old thinking” that may arise during a holiday gathering—”I can handle just one” or any such “illusion of wellness”—can be successfully addressed (and our sobriety maintained) by making a plan, asking ourselves a few recovery-related questions and taking some precautionary actions before, during and upon leaving any holiday events. Here’s to a happy and sober holiday season, one day at a time!
 Steinberger, H. “Preparing for Challenges to Addiction Recovery.” Dec. 11, 2019. SmartRecovery.org