December 16, 2014

Tips for Staying Healthy and Sober This Holiday Season

In addition to the joy of togetherness and spirit of generosity, many understand the holiday season to be synonymous with elevated levels of stress, flooding of unwelcomed emotions and impossibly high standards. Add trying to stay sober to the mix, and there is a potential recipe for holiday blues and resentments if you don’t adequately prepare for the bumpy road ahead. With realistic expectations and proper preparation, there is no reason why the holidays have to be chock-full of uninvited difficulties.

    • Plan ahead: Make a game plan for relapse prevention before holiday stress gets you in a rut.Have there been other holidays when you maintained your sobriety? What worked then?
    • Are there individuals or holiday events that are not healthy options for maintaining sobriety? What interpersonal boundaries do you need to enforce and maintain and with whom?
  • Increase accountability: Hold yourself accountable towards your goal of sobriety. If you are comfortable with divulging your sober status to family and friends who you will see this holiday season, they can help hold you accountable. Figure out what you’re comfortable with saying and stick with it. It’s a win/win situation: You feel empowered by owning your feelings and they feel connected by you sharing.
  • Link back up with your support system: Without other people involved, friends, family or fellowship, the battle is unnecessarily more difficult and unpredictable. Figure out who and what can help you lighten your load. Go to a meeting. If AA or NA are not your things, find an alternative sober support group in your area. If you need individual time to process what’s going on, make an appointment with a therapist to get back on track and grounded.
  • Maintain realistic expectations: You’ve got a lot on your plate, and adding unnecessarily high holiday expectations isn’t going to help anyone. Give yourself a break. Few things in life go perfectly as planned, and the holidays are no exception. Practice acceptance and gratitude.
  • Expand self-care: As with any taxing time, remember that you can ease the discomfort by incorporating additional life-enhancing activities into your schedule. What healthy pastimes improve your mood and make you feel good? You deserve it and only you can make it happen.

With a realistic and personalized relapse plan, emotional support and accountability, and incorporated self-care strategies, the stress and chaos of the holidays can melt away, leaving you to enjoy the season and focus on gratitude and continued recovery.

— Emily Keefer, Therapist, Sage Recovery