By Chelsy Ranard—
The holidays are all about celebrating, spending time with loved ones, and showing others that you care for them. Socialization is such an important part of the holidays with dinners, parties, and get-togethers with those that mean the most to you. The holidays can also be an emotional time as well – especially for those that have struggled with dependency and may have issues with family, feeling alone, or feeling grateful. In order to keep track of sobriety during the holidays it’s important to pinpoint your triggers, rely on a support system, keep your communication open, and not feel afraid to say “no.”
Take a Note of your Triggers
Everyone’s triggers are different, and it’s important to be realistic and honest about your sobriety, and what it is that triggers your cravings. For many, being around their chosen substance is a big trigger for them, and for those that have battled alcoholism, the holidays can be even more difficult. Wine at dinner, peppermint schnapps and hot chocolate, and champagne toasts are sprinkled around the holidays and if being around alcohol is a trigger, you’ll need to find a coping mechanism to deal. This can mean avoiding holiday parties altogether, bringing sparkling cider, or going to an extra meeting.
Realizing your triggers means realizing the reasons you started using in the first place. Insight can be the most useful coping mechanism, so it’s helpful to be honest and know your weaknesses. For college students that may begin using socially or to relieve stress, it’s a mistake to think they won’t feel triggered in a holiday setting just because it’s not exactly the same as the settings that triggered you to use. Same for those that used to cope emotionally, those that used to party, or those that used to feel good. Be prepared with how to cope because you never know when a trigger can happen, even in a holiday setting.
Have a Support System
Support is such a helpful aspect to coping with drug and alcohol dependency, and it will be especially useful during the holidays. If you’re concerned about going to a Christmas party or New Year’s party where there will be triggers, consider bringing a plus one that knows your situation and can be there with you to stay sober and talk you through difficult situations. If you can’t bring a plus one, consider talking with a co-worker, or having a friend ready on the other end of a phone line to be ready to take your phone call if you find yourself in a hard situation.
The difficulties with sobriety during the holidays is not just about holiday parties, it’s also about those that have struggled with dependence feeling alone. With so many people spending holidays with loved ones and reflecting on their year, many addicts or alcoholics with family issues feel down during this time of year. And feeling depressed can be a trigger for many that have dependency issues. Going to a meeting, seeking loved ones, or utilizing that support system will help combat those feelings of depression during this time of year.
Keep Open Communication
It can be difficult to have an open dialogue with coworkers, friends, or family about your issues with substance abuse, so the answer isn’t necessarily to be an open book with everyone you come across during the holidays. How you choose to discuss your sobriety is up to you, but it may be helpful to open up to someone about your sobriety. Telling everyone at your Christmas party that you’re not drinking because you’re a recovering alcoholic sounds like a nightmare to many, but be prepared for that question and how you feel comfortable answering it. Come prepared with your answer, and it doesn’t have to be the truth if you aren’t comfortable with that yet. You don’t need to have open communication with everyone, but it’ll help to have open communication with someone. That person can be your mother, friend, or sponsor, and they are there to help you. Your support system can’t accurately support you without an open stream of communication.
Don’t be Afraid to Say No
For some the holidays do not worry them with their sobriety and their triggers lie elsewhere. But for those that are dreading the holiday season and how it affects their sobriety, it’s smart to look at what exactly you’re anxious about. Are you worried about being around drinkers, explaining why you are not drinking, being exposed to your problem substances, or being alone? Figure out what that thing is for you, and decide if you can find a way to cope. If you go to a New Year’s party with your family, will it be hard for you to be around champagne bottles or judgmental family members without using? If that thought worries you too much, it’s okay to say no to that invitation. Skipping a holiday party and deciding to spend that night with sober loved ones or at a meeting is perfectly okay. Don’t feel an obligation to be around your triggers, you have the freedom to make those decisions for yourself.
Like so many things, sobriety takes time. It takes time to obtain and time to get comfortable with. Handling sobriety during the holidays is just another aspect to learning how to cope with your new life without the substance you’ve been dependent on. Learning how to handle your sobriety during the holidays is all about self-realization and honesty about what triggers you and what you can handle. It is possible to handle the holidays while handling your sobriety and practice makes perfect.
Author bio: Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She is passionate about addiction recovery advocacy, loves talk radio, and prefers her coffee iced. Follow her on Twitter!