Staying Sober and Drug-free Through the Holidays

celebrating with friendsThere are many reasons that holidays can be a difficult time for someone who is trying to stay sober. It might not even be that a person has been addicted and is in recovery. It could just be that they realize they are not at their best when they drink or use drugs. Unfortunately, the holidays are a time that many people who might not indulge loosen their own restraints. Just being around people who are indulging can be difficult for a person who is trying to stay sober.

Of course, the major drug used during these times is alcohol. But other people may turn to prescription medications to deal with the stress of long days or problematic relationships with family. If they consume more pills than recommended or use someone else’s prescription, then they are abusing these drugs. Benzodiazepines, painkillers, sleep aids – these are all commonly abused prescription drugs. All of them are addictive and have problematic side effects. Some of them can be deadly, especially in combination.

The following are a few comments on holiday sobriety from people who have been there.

Why is it harder to stay sober over the holidays?

  1. Triggers abound during the holidays.
  2. It has to do with people’s expectations. Some people think it needs to be perfect. But it rarely is.
  3. Added pressures of gifts, decorating, family functions can create anxiety.
  4. Office parties, business gatherings, family parties, gift exchange parties (with alcohol at many).
  5. Family expectations, grudges, resentments sometimes come out of the woodwork when everyone is together. Especially if they have not been together during the prior year.

Surviving holiday parties

  1. Plan ahead. Know your strategies. Have a backup plan.
  2. Bring your own beverages.
  3. Go with a sober buddy or people who know you need to stay sober.
  4. If you have a Twelve Step Sponsor or mentor, contact them before the party. If need be, contact them during the party as well. Or set up a texting network with other people who need to stay sober. You can help them, they can help you.
  5. If you are doubtful about your ability to stay away from alcohol or drug use at a party, make other plans. Have your own intimate (and drug and alcohol-free) gathering. It is totally okay to respond, “I appreciate your thinking of me but I will not be able to make it.”

holiday party with friendsThe key is to not pressure yourself. Be honest about the influences you can deal with and which ones you perhaps should wait awhile to deal with. Hopefully, those closest to you will support your need to take things at your own pace. If this ruffles some feathers, remind yourself that your sobriety can be a life and death matter. Someone who takes offense because you don’t show up for an event may not understand this but you do.

It might also work better for the first couple of holiday seasons to limit yourself to events where the other attendees will also be sober. This is why some people in recovery tend to socialize with other people in the same situation. With care, you’re going to be sober for a very long time, so missing a few holiday parties may be the best way to preserve your sobriety in the early days.