For many people, Christmas is synonymous with presents, decorations, and spending time with loved ones. Some indulge in alcoholic beverages during Christmas dinners and parties.
These social activities, along with the stress of gift-buying and memories of past holidays, can be triggering for someone in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction.
People in early recovery may find Christmas especially difficult to navigate. However, there are many ways to get through Christmas while maintaining sobriety.
Christmas brings an air of festivity and cheer. Parties often include drinks like eggnog or holiday-themed cocktails.
Alcohol is the most misused substance in the United States, and many people are in recovery from alcohol addiction. Witnessing people enjoying drinks at a party can be triggering for them.
In active addiction, some may have ramped up their drinking during the holidays because it was more socially acceptable, or they were drinking alone, isolated from friends and family.
Sober people, especially those in the first year of recovery, may have warped conceptions of Christmas. Changing this narrative can make the holidays fun and not shameful.
There are many ways to reinvent and invigorate your Christmas perception, including:
- attending and participating in Christmas events, such as singing carols and looking at Christmas lights in your neighborhood
- decorating your Christmas tree and helping others decorate theirs
- spending time with young people in your family
- knitting sweaters or socks for your family and fellow sober friends
- volunteering to be Santa at a gift give-away gathering
- going to a 12-step group marathon meeting, where you can mingle and participate in your and other people’s sobriety
- hosting a Christmas dinner for friends and family
- going on an extended hike
- going ice-skating
Managing Stress Levels
One of the main reasons why it’s so hard to stop drinking alcohol or using drugs, and what provokes relapse the most, is stress.
Buying gifts, socializing, spending more time with family members, taking care of kids on break from school, and other responsibilities can elevate stress levels.
Feeling overwhelmed can be the reason why some people decide to resort to old habits, such as alcohol, cocaine, or opioid abuse.
Managing stress levels isn’t easy for anyone. Here are some simple tips for keeping your cool during a high-involvement holiday like Christmas.
Tips for managing stress during recovery include:
- setting aside time every day to meditate, even if just for five minutes
- participating in hobbies and activities that bring you joy, such as playing an instrument or watching a favorite TV series
- staying committed to your 12-step meeting schedule
- buying a schedule, planner, or whiteboard to keep track of and make time for shopping, parties, and self-care
- jotting down a daily gratitude list
- engaging in daily physical activity, even if it’s just a 30-minute walk
- speaking with an experienced sober person
Staying Sober At A Get-Together
Americans are known to drink on New Year’s Eve and Christmas, so holiday parties, get-togethers, and gatherings are where relapses can happen.
Spending time with family as a newly sober person can also be difficult. Family members may not understand the concept of sobriety or refuse to believe that your recovery is sincere.
Feeling alienated at a party or feeling judged by family can lead to a relapse. However, you can get through a party without needing a drink and still have fun.
Ways to survive a Christmas party sober include:
- understanding that everyone is entitled to an opinion and that over time, your actions will show the strength of your sobriety
- talking with a more understanding person at the party
- bringing another sober person to the gathering
- taking time to step away from the festivities for a quick prayer, meditation, or reading of a motivational quote used in addiction recovery
- spending time with children who are in attendance
- attending a 12-step meeting before, during, or after the party
- offering to help prepare for the party or clean up afterward
- coming prepared with an exit strategy, such as needing to wake up early for work
While spending time with fellow sober people is a more sure way to avoid relapse, it’s almost inevitable that we will be around alcohol, marijuana, or another substance during our sobriety.
Even with many years of sobriety, some people in recovery can find Christmas parties taxing. There are ways to enjoy a gathering without having to revert to substance use.
Tips for avoiding a relapse during a Christmas party include:
- setting time limits on how long you’ll attend
- asking a sober friend or sponsor to attend with you
- knowing what you will say when someone offers you a drink, such as “I’m the designated driver,” “I have work tomorrow morning,” or “I’m good, thank you”
- bringing and holding onto a non-alcoholic drink so that people will be less likely to offer you a drink
- talking openly about your recovery, if you are comfortable with it (which can open the door for someone else in recovery to feel safer)
Remember, if you think a party will have too many substances or you’ll be too tempted, you don’t have to attend. Instead, go to a 12-step program meeting to avoid loneliness and feel safe.
Find Addiction Treatment In Massachusetts
People with substance use disorders don’t have to spend another Christmas, or any other holiday, in the clutches of addiction.
Reach out today to learn more about our personalized treatment options.
- How To Make Sober Friends During Addiction Recovery
- How To Celebrate New Years Without Alcohol
- Tips For Staying Sober With Depression
- Tips For Staying Sober On Thanksgiving
- What Is Dry January?
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – The Truth About Holiday Spirits
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – Recognizing Holiday Triggers of Trauma
U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Rethinking Holiday Drinking