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The idea of making it through the holiday season without drinking can be overwhelming for people who have recently completed an alcohol rehab program. For many, the holidays are steeped in tradition and rife with parties, celebrations, and reunions with friends and family. Getting through your first holiday season as a sober individual may be challenging. However, with the proper mindset and preparation, you can make it to the new year without setbacks, and one day, you’ll look back on what will likely have been one of the happiest, most enjoyable times of your life.

Here are 12 effective ways to stay sober during the holidays after recovering from alcohol dependence and addiction.

1. Identify Your Triggers

Any quality alcohol rehab program will help you identify your triggers during the earliest days of recovery. Then, your therapists and counselors will teach you effective ways to manage and avoid those triggers so you can stay sober and face a reduced risk for relapse. Knowing your triggers is important because it helps you prepare for situations during the holidays in which you may be faced with alcohol.

2. Develop Backup Plans

It’s highly likely that at least one person who doesn’t know about your decision to stay sober will invite you to a holiday party or offer you a drink. When this happens, you’ll need one or more backup plans to help you stay strong and avoid giving in. Think of excuses you can use to decline drinks or party invitations or think about how you can explain your sobriety in a way that makes you feel most comfortable. Having backup plans can arm you with the confidence you need to decline and say no to alcohol.

3. Manage Your Finances

Financial hardship can lead to stress, which is a common trigger for drinking. During the holidays, it’s easy to get caught up in holiday shopping and spend more than what you may initially have budgeted for. Take care to manage your finances as best as possible to avoid the stress that comes with financial hardship.

4. Take it Easy with Holiday Shopping

Holiday shopping can be extremely stressful if you dislike large crowds, long lines, and busy parking lots, or if you feel pressured to buy the perfect gifts for your friends and loved ones. The holidays are meant to be fun and enjoyable—not stressful and exhausting. This year, go easy on yourself and aim to keep it simple with holiday shopping and gifts. Consider making homemade gifts that are useful, or stick to online shopping instead of going out to face crowds.

5. Understand That Holidays Don’t Always Need to Be Perfect

Movies, television shows, and commercials tend to paint the perfect picture when it comes to enjoying the holidays and spending this time with loved ones. However, keep in mind that these “perfect” scenarios are often unrealistic and that holidays come and go every year. Not everything has to be perfect—try to focus on your health and well-being, and on spending quality time with friends and family.

6. Be Prepared to Talk About Sobriety and Alcohol Rehab

Some people may ask why you’re not drinking at a party, or initiate a conversation about your time spent at alcohol rehab. Consider how you may feel about answering these questions and devise your responses accordingly. Think about how to politely divert conversation if you don’t feel comfortable talking about alcohol rehab, or about excuses you can make as to why you’re not drinking. Your sobriety and experience at alcohol rehab is your business, and you’re entitled to handle these situations in a way that makes you feel most comfortable.

7. Make New Traditions

Alcohol is commonly involved in many families and spiritual holiday traditions, such as taking communion at church or drinking spiked eggnog on Christmas Eve. Though these may be long-held traditions in your family, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to break tradition if it means staying sober and healthy. Consider confiding in your family, friends, and church leaders about why you need to stray from certain traditions and make new traditions that don’t involve alcohol. 

8. Stay in Touch With Your Sponsor

Your sponsor from Alcoholics Anonymous may already understand how difficult it can be to get through your first holiday season as a sober individual. Discuss any concerns with your sponsor before the holidays, and devise a plan that allows you to get in touch with one another when needed. Attend support groups regularly throughout the holidays, and consider calling your sponsor before and after holiday parties and events for extra support.

9. Choose Holiday Parties Wisely

Many holiday parties hosted by friends, family and your employer will likely expose you to alcohol. Before accepting any invitations to these events, find out as much as you can about the party, such as who’s going, whether there will be alcohol, and whether there will be fun activities to keep you occupied such as dancing and games. If you plan on attending a party, devise a plan that you know will help you stay sober. Take a friend or relative who can help you stay accountable, bring your own non-alcoholic beverages, and avoid events that will expose you to enablers and negative influences.

10. Take Family With a Grain of Salt

Nearly every family has at least one obnoxious relative that causes problems or doesn’t get along with everyone. Coping with difficult relatives can be stressful, as can family conflicts that arise when these relatives come to visit. If you’re having to deal with problematic family members, take these experiences with a grain of salt, and either try to make the most out of their visit or be thankful they’re not around all year long.

11. Effectively Manage Your Time and Prioritize

The holiday season can get extremely busy if you’re trying to juggle a heavy workload, quality time with family, holiday shopping, and numerous holiday events. It’s okay to say no if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with plans, and lack enough time to get other important things done. Time constraints can make you feel stressed out, which increases the risk of relapse.

12. Practice Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors

Many people tend to indulge over the holidays with lots of desserts and junk food and may skip the gym so they can sleep in late and spend more time with relatives. Though it’s completely okay to indulge a little during the holidays, make a commitment to stay on track with your healthy lifestyle so your habits won’t lead back to drinking alcohol. Find a way to be physically active every day even if it’s just for a few minutes, and eat healthy foods to ward off cravings for junk food and alcohol.

If Relapse Happens, How Can Alcohol Rehab Help?

Relapse affects between 40 and 60% of people who suffer from substance use disorders like alcohol addiction. Relapse during the holidays is possible, but should not be viewed as a failure. If you do relapse, please understand that it only means your treatment plan at alcohol rehab must be modified in a way that helps you achieve longer-lasting sobriety.

After you’ve relapsed, contact your alcohol rehab center immediately. Your treatment center will have you go through alcohol detox again to eliminate alcohol from your body and reduce withdrawal symptoms, if necessary. Following alcohol detox, you can join another treatment program that addresses the circumstances and root cause behind your relapse. The goal of treatment is to help you become stronger in terms of managing triggers so you can stay sober and successfully make it through the next holiday season without feeling the urge to drink.

Summer House Detox Center offers alcohol detox in Florida to help people experience a safe recovery from alcohol abuse and dependence. Contact us today at 800-719-1090 to learn more about our available alcohol detox programs or visit our detox treatment center in Miami at 13550 Memorial Highway Miami, FL 33161.