This time each year can be stressful for anyone, but the holidays may present a different challenge for people in recovery and trying to maintain their sobriety. Substance abuse can have both genetic and environmental components. Seeing family members during the holidays can be difficult for some people in recovery. Some family members may also have their own substance abuse issues; other times, past unhealthy emotional patterns make the holidays difficult.
Create a plan to take care of yourself and connect with your recovery community to navigate what can be a difficult time of year.
Make a “Top 5” list: Choose 5 people you can call if you’re craving alcohol or drugs. Let them know in advance you will be calling them for support!
Change your routes: Avoid triggers by listing and staying away from places where you used to drink or get high.
Give back: Volunteer your time or services during the holidays.
Don’t stay hungry: Avoid HALT during the holidays getting too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Choose frequent small healthy snacks like yogurt, hummus and raw veggies, high fiber cereal, milk, avocado, and nut butters to name a few. Don’t miss meals.
Tune in, not out or play it forward: Create a special recovery playlist. Include songs from any season or genre that inspire you to maintain your recovery. Keep this playlist on your phone as a handy tool to turn to resist triggers.
Walk about it: The holiday season brings shorter days and less sunlight, but a brisk walk-in nature under a starry winter sky can restore your spirit.
Strength training: Regular exercise is a powerful tool for building your recovery muscles and improving your fitness. Like drugs and alcohol, exercise releases dopamine and endorphins, the hormones that make you feel happy.
Avoid Known Risks: If you know your Aunt is going to grill you about rehab, avoid her. If your Uncle will try to mix you a stiff drink, stay away from him. If a holiday party is centered around drinking or other drug use, make a brief appearance, or don’t attend at all. It is unrealistic to put yourself in the position of having to “power through” an obstacle course of relapse triggers.
Graceful exit: If you are at an event and feel tempted to get high, give yourself permission to leave early.
Soothe your spirit: Engage in activities daily that uplift your spirit, i.e., meditation, yoga, prayer, gratitude journal, spending time with a pet or visiting an animal sanctuary.
Become a groupie: Attend recovery support groups near your home or online during the holiday season.
Life support: Get connected with some top-rated online sobriety support groups.
- Alcohol Recovery: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- CBT-Based: Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART)
- Secular Group: LifeRing
- Mindfulness: Club Soda
- For Women: Women for Sobriety (WFS)
Sources: aa.org, smartrecovery.org, samhsa.gov, verywellmind.com