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5 Tips for Maintaining Sobriety During the Holidays

The holiday season can be a fun and joyous occasion that is filled with family gatherings, work parties, and spirit-filled festivities. For some, this season is also a time of stress, challenges, and emotionally heightened situations. This stressful time can bring on triggers of unhealthy behavior and can make it difficult to cope with certain situations. This is particularly true for those who are newly sober or in recovery and attempting to manage the holiday season sober. Most holiday parties have indulgent food and lots of alcoholic beverages; therefore, creating plenty of temptation and pressure. With this combination of heightened emotions being triggered and the availability and temptation of alcohol, it can be very difficult to manage.

Here are some tips for managing alcohol during the holidays:

1. Plan Ahead:

Going into the holiday season, we already know challenges and stressful situations will arise, so it's imperative to be prepared. Have a backup plan for when you need to leave a party abruptly or even bring your support system along with you to events. You may also need to strategize surviving certain events where more alcohol may be present than others. Perhaps you bring along an interesting non-alcoholic beverage to enjoy or plan a very brief appearance to minimize any triggers or temptations that you might feel while attending these events. 

2. Coping Skills:

It's important that you are managing your own health and wellness during high-stress events, including the holiday season. This should be a top priority. Implementing coping skills is really key to managing difficult and challenging emotions as well as situations. Coping skills are strategies that we use to help us manage our response and reactions to these challenges. Some ideas for coping include: going for a walk or other exercise, practicing mindfulness or meditation, and listening to music. If you are beginning to feel overwhelmed while at a holiday event, excuse yourself to take a quick break and use your coping strategies. Self-care is critical during this time to stay on your path to recovery.

3. Set Clear Boundaries:

If you are at a holiday event and are feeling uncomfortable, then set a clear boundary about how you are feeling. Express this discomfort to others or leave the engagement. This is especially true if you are newly sober and get offered alcohol. Being around alcohol can be very triggering so it's important that you set clear boundaries right from the start. This way, the other person isn't constantly trying to pressure you into drinking and is aware of where you stand. Another idea is to the designated driver. This way you can set a clear boundary you are not drinking that others should respect. The path to recovery is a challenging one and it's important that people are aware of and respect your boundaries. If you feel that your social network does not respect and honor your boundaries, then it may be time to develop a new, healthy and respectful support system.

4. Build Your Support Network:

As we know, people can get triggered during the holidays, so it's important to have a healthy support network available to you during this time. Perhaps this is a sober friend, sponsor or significant other who can go to the party with you to be a strong support system at the event. Another idea is to have people who are willing to be available for a quick phone call or visit so that you are able to discuss how you are feeling and be supported. When people know ahead of time that a loved one is struggling, they will often carve out time to ensure they are available to be a listening ear. 

5. Monitor Your Emotional State:

Managing your emotions is critical during high-stress situations, such as the holidays or family dinners. It's important that you are monitoring how you feel and are implementing your coping skills when necessary. Be sure to take the time that you need and give yourself some space. Recovery is very challenging and is a top priority. Monitoring your emotional state and implementing coping skills when needed is crucial. Perhaps there is bickering at your family dinner and you feel overwhelmed, then it's important to step back and take a few moments for some self-care. You could go for a walk or excuse yourself to another room while you can composure over your feelings. The point is to make that time for yourself.


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Blog written by: Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt, Clinical Psychologist, Relationship Coach & Founder of the Loving Roots Project, an online wellness practice specializing in personal growth, mental wellness, & relationship betterment.

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