14 Sober Holiday Survival Tips

It’s the “hap-happiest season of all”—except when it isn’t. For many people in recovery, the holidays can be a very challenging and triggering time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, December and January have higher rates of alcohol- and drug-related deaths than any other months in the year.

Depression rates are also higher in winter. Seasonal affective disorder (aka “SAD”) is a form of major depressive disorder that occurs during the colder, darker months.

SAD affects about 6% of the U.S. population, with another 14% of American adults experiencing a lesser form of seasonal mood changes called the “winter blues.”

To take care of yourself and protect your sobriety, experts say it’s wise to plan ahead and have a strong support system you can call on when life gets hard.

Here are 14 tips to help you and your loved ones survive all the spending, stressing, and “a-wassailing” that Christmastime brings.

Set boundaries. Know what makes you uncomfortable and share this with others, so your friends and family can support you. Also, you don’t have to RSVP “yes” to every invitation.

Craft a scripted response for refusing drugs and alcohol. Don’t get caught off guard when innocent family members or friends offer you a drink. A prepared response can help you respond to tricky or pressuring situations in a healthy and positive way.

Have an exit strategy. It’s okay to leave an event early if you feel uncomfortable for any reason.

Up your self-care routine. ‘Tis the season to spoil yourself. Get a massage, haircut, or manicure, go to the gym, or enjoy the positive and “sober” activities that make you feel good.

Stay committed to the rituals that ground you. Whether it’s journaling, praying, practicing yoga, meditating, or going for a walk outside, take the time to nurture your mental health and find your inner peace.

Create a list of why maintaining your sobriety is important to you. Sometimes writing it down is all it takes to remind you how far you’ve come and what’s at stake.

Start a new tradition. Take a vacation, go out to dinner instead of hosting at home, or celebrate the holidays in a new place.

Take up a new hobby. Knitting, baking, painting, rollerblading, cycling, rowing… the possibilities are endless.

Volunteer. Give freely of your time and talents. Because performing acts of kindness and helping others may inadvertently help you, too.

Engage with your recovery community. Surrounding yourself with people you trust who know what you’ve been through and share your struggles can be beneficial and comforting in difficult times.

Be accountable. Keep connected to your sponsor and those you’ve made this commitment with. Attend meetings and pull on the support of others in recovery.

Avoid isolation. Loneliness and social isolation can have serious effects on a person’s health and well-being, including an increased risk of alcohol misuse and addiction.

Ask for help. When in doubt, seek guidance from a medical professional, counselor, or therapist. For those in recovery, preparing for the holidays may also mean re-evaluating their aftercare plan, joining or returning to a 12-Step group like Alcoholics Anonymous or an alternative program like SMART Recovery, or even going back to treatment.

Give yourself grace. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you’re feeling. (Happy, sad, or both—it’s okay.) Remember that healing takes time and hope exists. It’s possible to find holiday cheer (or to at least survive all the holiday cheer around you).

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us at . Our admissions navigators are available around the clock to discuss your treatment and rehab payment options and help you begin the path to recovery today.

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