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How to Enjoy a Sober Holiday Season

family sitting around a table enjoying a sober holiday

The holiday season can be a very difficult time for the newly sober. Although it holds the potential to be filled with joyful experiences, such as gatherings of friends and loved ones and other nostalgic activities, many of these may be associated with substance abuse. Despite the potential stress, it is possible to enjoy the season, perhaps in new and unexpected ways. Our alcohol addiction treatment program in Youngstown can provide you with the tools you need to live a happy and complete life in sobriety. Call the team at Midwest Center at Youngstown today at 844.544.0502 to take the first steps towards a full recovery.

The Challenge of Dry Holidays 

There are many reasons why an individual in recovery may feel overwhelmed when approaching the holidays, particularly their first sober holiday season. While in treatment, they likely uncovered a host of triggers that they never even knew contributed to their substance use, including benign-seeming settings like an office party or gathering with friends. Even certain sights, smells, and sounds may have subconscious associations with drinking or taking drugs, which might not be fully realized until a drink approaches their lips.

In addition, the overall stress of the season tends to wear down an individual’s willpower, leading to a tendency to self-soothe with familiar, dopamine-enhancing activities. However, stress loads can be tempered with proper attention to self-care and a little advanced planning. 

Tips on How to Enjoy Sober Holidays  

Here are a list of strategies that can help you to maintain sobriety through the holiday season (and beyond):

  • Think of your stress level as a checking account where you want to keep the lowest balance possible. Every time you can make a stress withdrawal by getting a good night of sleep, taking the occasional mental health day, booking a massage, going to a yoga class, spending time with a close friend, etc., you increase the available mental and emotional energy to stay on course when facing a challenging situation. 
  • The better you feel physically, the less likely you are to experience cravings. Make sure to prioritize exercise and healthy eating the majority of the time.
  • Work with your therapist, counselor, or support group to make a list of all the potential triggering individuals and situations you can think of, and make a plan in advance of how you will approach each scenario. Select the handful of events that bring you the most joy, and do not feel any guilt in simply eliminating optional activities that you dread, particularly your first year.
  • Always have a list of phone numbers in your phone for people you can call in an emergency, which includes feeling an overwhelming craving. 

Navigating Holiday Gatherings

Even if you find yourself at a holiday gathering where there is likely to be substance use, some advanced planning can go a long way in making for an easier and more enjoyable event.

Some tips to consider include:

  • When appropriate, let your host know that you are in recovery, which will allow them to  arrange for non-alcoholic alternatives
  • Volunteer to help with food, music, or another aspect of the evening that you’ll enjoy (and that will keep your hands engaged)
  • Walk around with a mocktail in your hand, so well-meaning attendees do not continually offer you drinks

Finally, realize that you might go from having a great time to feeling an overwhelming urge to drink or take drugs in an instant and have an escape plan ready. Other guests likely won’t think twice if you need to excuse yourself to get some fresh air, make a quick phone call, etc. Also, make sure you have plans for safe and reliable transportation away from the party if you need it. 

Reach Out for Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Midwest Center at Youngstown

It can be intimidating to re-enter your regular life without the dulling effects of alcohol or drugs. However, there is a lifetime of rich, new experiences waiting for you. At Midwest Center at Youngstown, our holistic approach to recovery includes a thorough plan for patient aftercare, allowing for the best chance of success. Call our team at 844.544.0502 to learn the next steps in getting the help you deserve.