Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, the 4th of July or any other holiday, celebrating with loved ones during recovery can fill you with dread. Alcohol plays a role in many people’s family’s holiday gatherings, so it’s no wonder you’re concerned.
Surviving your first family holiday sober is possible—and even potentially enjoyable—if you have a plan in place to ensure your success. Use the ideas below to create your own plan to celebrate with your family while anticipating triggers and successfully managing cravings.
Family holidays can be joyful, stressful, emotional and filled with unrealistic expectations. Triggers are everywhere, and so are opportunities to use, making planning for a family holiday sober one of the most important tasks on your to-do list.
Enlist support. Your family members want the best for you, but they may not know how to support you on this journey. Asking your sister, for example, to be your advocate, stay close at hand and help you stay sober during the holiday can make a world of difference. Also keep the lines of communication open with your sponsor, mentor or other external supporter.
Know what you can handle and what you can’t. This might not be the time to attend one party after another, so choose your events strategically. If you do attend a party, bring your own beverages to ensure you have access to non-alcoholic refreshments, plan to leave early and have an exit strategy that includes your own transportation to leave if you start to feel overwhelmed.
Plan holiday activities that empower you rather than tempt you. While celebrations in the past may have involved drinking or drugs, there are other ways to celebrate that are far more enjoyable such as family hikes, ice skating with the little ones or volunteering.
Enjoying Your Family Holiday Sober
The holiday has arrived and you’re ready for it. Below are a few more tips to get through the family holiday sober once the festivities begin.
Assess your mood. If you’ll be attending a party or activity where opportunities to use abound, try using the acronym “HALT” before a social event to remind yourself to avoid being too hungry, angry, lonely or tired—each of which can chip away at your defenses.1
Arrive early, leave early. Make an appearance at obligatory events before the real partying begins and then leave early.
Stay focused on sobriety.2 Narcotics Anonymous suggests reminding yourself that sobriety can be a life or death matter. Others may not understand, but you know why it’s important an what’s at stake for you. So does your sponsor, so lean on your sponsor as needed.
Did you survive your first family holiday sober? It’s an accomplishment, but it’s also a process that you will face with every family holiday. Take a few minutes to review what happened to create a “lessons learned” document.
For example, what went according to the plan? What would you do differently? Did anything catch you off guard? Which triggers were hardest to deal with? Which strategies worked the best? Which family members could you count on for support? Which ones should you avoid next time?
Review these lessons before your next family holiday to give yourself the best gift of all.