Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays

By: Maleah Banker, Graduate Student Intern

The holiday season is just around the corner, and it can be a fun and exciting time! For many, this means family gatherings, travel, traditions, and festivities. But for those in Recovery, it can be a difficult, stressful, and triggering time of the year. 

The very reasons people love this time of year can be the very reasons someone in recovery might be triggered to relapse. These reasons could include but are not limited to the financial strain of the season, increased family time or increased time alone, travel planning, changes in routine, holiday parties and more. This being said, it is imperative to be prepared for when these triggers DO happen not IF they might. 

Being aware of your triggers can be the first step to creating a plan of action for the holiday season. Awareness for triggers is very important in many aspects, such as being attuned to your body and what it is telling you both physically and mentally. Triggers can include people, places, things, thoughts, emotional states, and activities/situations. 

Okay, so we know our triggers but now what? COPING SKILLS! Utilizing coping skills when faced with triggers can make handling difficult situations this holiday season a little easier. Coping skills might look different for everyone and what works for you might not work for another. It is important to create a strategy. Your strategy might include several coping skills, maybe a list of trusted people you can talk to, or even some rehearsed phrases to help you get out difficult situations. Most importantly, don’t wait until the heat of the moment to test out your chosen coping skills, PRACTICE THEM!! Below is a list of tips to stay sober during the holidays:

  • Practice good self-care 
  • Be of service- if you find yourself in your head, take action and help clean up, prep, etc-right action leads to right thinking!
  • Attend more meetings than usual during this holiday season
  • Communicate to trusted family or friends 
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Try online AA or NA meetings if traveling out of your usual area or download the meeting app guide and attend one where you’re at
  • Try breathing exercises
  • Make healthy eating choice 
  • Say no to people, places, and things that could put your recovery at risk
  • Bring your sponsor or a sober friend/family member 
  • Keep your values and why you’re choosing sobriety at the top of mind
  • Play the tape all the way through if you’re triggered to use-the consequences in the long run always outweigh the short term benefit.
  • Stay physically active in some way- get that dopamine naturally!
  • Start a substance-free tradition this season 
  • Create a relapse prevention plan or review and refresh your current one 

For further tips for staying sober during the holidays, check out these websites or make an appointment with one of substance use specialists! 

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