Overcoming an addiction is one of the most challenging things a person can do. Some people are addicted to sugar. In fact, researchers say that this addiction is as strong as or stronger than addiction to cocaine. For many, the substance that caused a struggle in life was alcohol. If you’re a recovering alcoholic, we congratulate you for the changes you are making in your life. It’s not an easy thing to do. If this is your first holiday season of sobriety (or even your fifth or sixth or more) certain issues might cause you to feel unsettled or anxious. In fact, you might be tempted to drink.
There are several things to keep in mind when your goal, as a recovering alcoholic, is to make it through the holidays. You hopefully already have a strong support network in place. This might include an AA program, as well as trusted family members and friends. Your support system might also include a faith minister, therapist or counselor. If you have been ”going it alone” up to this point, you might want to reach out for some added support during the holidays.
A recovering alcoholic should try to avoid stressful situations during the holidays
Every family has problems. Some might be fortunate enough to say that theirs are few and far between. But, every family has problems. It’s also not uncommon for there to be personality clashes among certain family members. This can cause stress during the holidays. As a recovering alcoholic, you might be at a disadvantage in stressful situations. It’s best to try to avoid them. If your relationship with a particular person is strained or outright contentious, it might be better not to visit with him or her during the holidays.
Being with family can also trigger raw emotions about the past. The holidays are often a reminder of bad memories for people who struggle with substance abuse. There might be people who refuse to let a sleeping dog lie, so to speak. This type of person thrives on drawing attention to other people’s faults. Such a person might even seek you out in a crowd to remind you of past holidays that were disrupted by your addiction. If you believe that family stress is going to cause you sobriety problems during the holidays, it might be best to politely decline the invitation. If you are hosting a gathering, be choosy about the guest list.
Declining offers of alcohol can be troublesome for a recovering alcoholic
If you’re at a holiday celebration, and someone doesn’t know that you have had a substance abuse problem in the past, he or she might offer you alcohol. This can not only be uncomfortable but can also be a trigger that tempts you into a setback. To avoid such problems, think ahead about how you will respond in such situations. You certainly do not owe anyone an explanation. However, if it helps you in your recovery, you can state in a matter-of-fact way that you appreciate the offer but decline because you are a recovering alcoholic.
If you don’t feel comfortable sharing the information, all you really need to say is, ”No, thank you.” You don’t have to go beyond that. A simple smile and polite decline is all that’s needed. If someone asks if you would like a drink, it might be obvious that they are referring to alcohol. You could respond by naming the drink that you would prefer, such as iced tea or water with lemon. Then again, you might not feel up to such tasks at all, which is fine. In this case, you can restrict your social gatherings to those that do not include alcohol. Then, you are guaranteed that no one will be offering you any.
You do not have to stay the whole time at a holiday party
Depending on how confident and comfortable and strong you feel as a recovering alcoholic, you might be ready to attend social gatherings. However, sometimes, you might notice that, the longer you are around people who are imbibing, the more difficult it is to maintain your sobriety. Consider attending the parties but limiting your stay to one or two hours, or however long you feel comfortable before temptation sets in.
Always prepare for the holidays ahead of time
Going to holiday parties are not the only thing that can affect your sobriety as a recovering alcoholic. There’s also shopping, cooking, decorating, company gift exchanges and more. Even increased amounts of traffic might be a trigger for you. To gather your strength and prepare yourself for navigating the holidays without alcohol, plan ahead. Put your armor on. Attend an AA meeting or other community support group. Talk to your sponsor, if you have one.
You might also benefit from prayer and meditation, scheduling an extra counseling session or talking to someone who is also a recovering alcoholic. Think about the holidays and what your triggers might be. Then, as best you can, develop a plan for success and do not hesitate to reach out for additional support, if needed! You might also want to read this article, by Alcoholics Anonymous, which includes helpful information and recommendations to help you maintain sobriety during the holidays!