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The holidays can bring great joy to our hearts, but for people living in recovery, this time of year can be a trigger.
With all the stress of cooking, buying gifts, or traveling, staying sober during the holidays may be difficult for some people —especially in the early years of recovery.
In addition, it can be challenging if you have family or friends drinking during the holiday.
Also, you don't want to isolate yourself from your loved ones.
National surveys indicate that of individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD), only one-third will try to quit drinking.
Yet only 25% of those successfully stay sober for over a year.
So, if you are in your first year of recovery, making it through the holiday season without drinking can be quite an accomplishment.
Thankfully, there are some ways to safeguard yourself from the thoughts of taking a drink.
Here are six tips for staying sober during the holidays to make it to the new year without a relapse.
If you already have a self-care routine, you know how important it is, and it is just as crucial for staying sober during the holidays. If you don't have a self-care routine, there are plenty of ways to practice self-care. Some of these methods include:
There are many ways to practice self-care, but it is one of the most important things to do to stay sober. Keeping your body healthy is just as important as keeping your mind and heart at peace.
When you get sober, it can take a while for your brain to heal from the damage of addiction. Yoga, for example, can aid in healing brain areas damaged by alcohol. Yoga can also affect your gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels, one of the neurotransmitters that alcohol affects and damages. GABA helps keep you calm, so you will think of drinking less when you can naturally produce peaceful feelings.
One of the best tips for staying sober during the holidays is simply avoiding triggers. If you know that your uncle will be drinking the whole weekend, try to avoid being around him as much as possible. You don't have to be rude, but you don't need to walk downstairs with him and chat while he throws a few beers back.
If your office is having a party and you know that most everyone is going to be drinking, you may politely decline. If you must put yourself first and turn down places, events, or even people this holiday season to maintain sobriety, so be it.
If you used to drink wine while you baked pie, then maybe ask someone else to bake it this year because it triggers you. Before you tempt yourself, avoid triggers at all costs because they can be overwhelming and cause a relapse before you even realize how it happened.
Often during the holidays, we have these expectations of how we should cook the meal and what music to listen to. Everything doesn't have to be a certain way to have a good time.
If you really can't go to everyone's house this year, then learn to say no. If you overextend yourself, you will cause stress that may lead to thoughts of drinking. Stress can be a massive trigger for relapse, so any way that you can limit your stress is a plus.
Sometimes during holidays, people tend to overeat. A recent study determined that people gain an average holiday weight gain of around a pound. While that may not sound like a lot, overeating can make you feel sluggish, and you may put your exercise to the side until the new year.
When you veer off your regular structured schedule, you are putting yourself at a greater risk for a relapse. You want to try to eat healthily and keep your normal sleep schedules going during the holidays to reduce your chances of a relapse.
If you put too much stress on yourself to make sure that the family has a good time and you forget to put your sobriety above all else, you may risk a relapse. If you need a meeting, there are plenty of zoom meetings online that you can attend right in the comfort of your home. If you must leave a party because you feel tempted, then go. The people that care about you will understand why you had to leave.
If your favorite drink is sweet tea, then be prepared to carry around a glass of tea. You can even put it in a festive cup. You won't be tempted to grab an alcoholic drink if you always have another drink in your hand.
Instead, you could make a mocktail. If everyone drinks mixed drinks, you can have one without the alcohol. People will see you have a drink and won't offer you one.
Your brain may tell you that you can have one beer, and it will be okay, but play that tape out. Could you ever have just one? Chances are, you couldn't.
Staying sober during the holidays is possible, and many people living in recovery do it year after year. Just be mindful of your thoughts and try not to allow yourself to get too stressed out. If you are stressed —breathe— and find a self-care technique that works for you and put it into play.
Remember, triggers may last a few minutes but eventually wear off.
Of course, you can always carry around your favorite non-alcoholic drink. Or find a Zoom Alcoholics Anonymous meeting if you feel worried about alcohol use during the holiday season.
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Many of us are often faced with struggles and hardships and finding help can be difficult. However, at Overcomers Counseling, we are here to help you in your time of need. We are passionate about people and we believe that ANYONE can be an overcomer if they are willing to pursue it. Don't let another day go by without getting the help you desire.
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