The Holidays Are Here, Do You Have An “Accountabilibuddy”?

Happy friends at Christmas party

The holidays can be a stressful time. We get it. Gifts, close family members, extended family, in-laws, work parties, church events, Christmas cards, decorations, emotions, memories, it all combines every year around December, and it tends to have mixed effects on all of us.

For anyone, the holidays can be just as emotional and stressful as they are pleasant, for one reason or another. But for those of us who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, this time of the year can be especially challenging. The added stress, the added schedule demands, all of the holiday parties with free alcohol and other distractions, the resurgence of memories and past experiences that happened around this time of the year, it can all add up to an increased risk for relapse, and that is something that no recovering addict wants to experience.

Twelve Ideas and Strategies for Staying Sober this Holiday Season

No recovering addict wants to experience a relapse. There are few life events that someone in recovery can experience that are as upsetting and unpleasant as a relapse. And a relapse during the holidays has an extra sting to it. Listed below are twelve tips for staying sober this holiday season:

Man not listening.
  • 1. Avoid situations that involve substance abuse. This is a pretty simple one. Recovering from alcohol addiction? Invited to an office party that you don’t really need to go to? Just don’t go to it. Part of maintaining sobriety and abstinence involves staying away from environments which could be conducive to substance abuse. A work party might seem safe, but is it really?
  • 2. Always have an out. If you are placed in an environment where there are substances, always have a way to removed yourself. In fact, have two or three as backups. Cover yourself so that if the environment seems threatening to you, you can exit with grace.
  • 3. Enjoy the true beauty of the holiday season. Remember, the holidays are not actually about drinking, excessive eating, substance abuse, and overindulgence. The holidays are about love, joy, rejoicing in one’s faith if applicable, and spending time with the family. If you focus on the joy and love that is the keynote of the holidays, this will aid you in maintaining your sobriety.
  • 4. No brooding. Sitting and sulking and feeling as though the holidays are a time when you must stay indoors is not going to do anything pleasant for your mental and emotional state. Rather, use the free time during the holidays to catch up on reading, classes, hobbies, exercise, projects, etc.
  • 5. Check yourself. Are you angry, irritable, restless, or lonely? If so, are you also hungry or tired? We know that poor, non-optimum emotions are often the predecessors to a relapse. So why not nip those emotions in the bud by actually addressing the source of them, i.e. tiredness or hunger? You’d be amazed by how many adverse emotions this holiday season are just coming from not getting enough good and healthy food to eat, and/or not enough rest.
  • 6. Live newly and create new traditions. If the holidays used to mean just more substance abuse for you, this year try creating new traditions and activities, such as watching holiday movies with the family, baking cookies, engaging in winter activities, etc. The important thing is that you fill your schedule with pleasant, positive, and healthy activities.
Happy friends walking together and shopping.
  • 7. Don’t go it alone. Some recovering addicts think that the key to surviving the holidays as a recovering addict lies in locking oneself away and waiting it out. Not so. It would actually be better to get out and about and enjoy yourself. But when you do this, have an “accountabilibuddy” with you, someone to whom you can hold yourself accountable to and someone who is accountable to you in staying sober, too.
  • 8. Help others. Want a fast-track way out of your own grim thoughts? Get out and help others. Volunteering around the holiday season is very helpful not only for the community but its very helpful for your own mindset too. Get out there and make a difference. Volunteer at your church, local nonprofit or community good Samaritan program. It will do wonders for changing even the worse mood for the better.
  • 9. Always have a backup line. When someone passes you a drink or tries to peer pressure you into doing something you know is the first step down a wrong path, you should have a line prepared for them. You want to remove the danger or potential risk from the situation (e.g. getting yourself away from potentially addictive substances) but you want to do so while saving face too. Be sure to have some things to say prepared for when someone tries to offer you a drink or a joint this holiday season.
Holding glass of Ice tea
  • 10. Keep a glass or bottle in your hand when socializing with others at a holiday party, dinner, or event. This is one of the oldest parlor tricks in the book, but it’s a good one, so we’ll mention it here. One great way to avoid someone trying to push alcohol (or something worse) on you is to already have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand. When people see someone with a beverage in their hand, they subconsciously do not feel compelled to ask them if they want a drink. This trick works wonders ninety percent of the time, and having something to say in the back of your mind makes up for the other ten percent of the time when this trick doesn’t work.
  • 11. Go over your recovery. People in recovery should do this frequently, holidays or no holidays. While walking the path of sobriety, it’s good to remind yourself why you’re doing it. Everyone has different reasons for getting off drugs and alcohol. When the holidays come around, take extra time to remind yourself of these reasons. They will jog your memory as to why you’re making the commitment to sobriety and abstinence each and every day.
  • 12. Set goals for the holiday season. Maybe you have an estranged family member that you would like to repair a relationship with and spend more time with. Maybe you have a project you’ve been putting off all year and now you can finally do it. Maybe you have a big activity you’d like to schedule and do with the whole family. Having goals set for the holiday season makes the possibility of relapse that much more distant, so try to keep a full schedule and stay busy.

There are certainly many other approaches to staying sober around the holiday season. And different faiths and different treatment models will also have strategies that are more pertinent to their specific doctrine. But the above twelve strategies are especially helpful because they can be applied by anyone, from any walk of life, any faith, and rehab background.

Have a Great Time This Holiday Season!

Take heart in knowing that this holiday season is going to be a totally relapse-free season. Take heart in knowing that this year will be the best holiday year yet. This year, enjoy the holiday season, and do your best to make sure that those around you enjoy it as much as you do too!

Reviewed by Claire Pinelli ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.