7 Tips For Staying Sober This Holiday Season
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For me, as a (now sober) introvert, the holiday season means get togethers with friends and family, games, small talk and all things that tend to trigger my anxiety. Besides anxiety, the holidays can bring up other feelings for people such as stress, loneliness, anger, depression and memories of what the holidays used to look like when you drank. No matter what you are feeling or the plans you have coming up, it's important to go into this season with a game plan. I wanted to share with you some tips for keeping your sobriety during the holiday season.
1. Make a firm decision.
This is something I talk a lot about when talking about feeling nervous about going into certain social situations sober. For a lot of us, we've struggled with alcohol for a long time and we've created a life that revolves around alcohol. Once we get sober, we find ourselves having to learn how to rearrange our lives so that we can still do the things we enjoy doing with the people we enjoy spending time with while still remaining sober. The #1 piece of advice I have for people when going into a social situation where you may have been used to drinking in the past, is to make the firm and conscious decision NOT to drink beforehand. Making this decision is the first and most important step. If you don't make this decision ahead of time it gives you more room for error and more likeliness of giving into temptation when caught up in the moment.
2. Make your intentions clear.
If you are planning on spending the holidays with friends and family where you know drinking will be happening, make your intentions of staying sober clear and known. If you have the ability and relationship with your friends and family where you can let them know ahead of time, I highly recommend doing so. This takes away any question of whether or not you will be drinking and hopefully will lessen the amount of times you have to say decline a drink or explain why you aren't drinking.
3. Bring your own drinks.
When I was dating my ex and we were still attending his family get togethers, alcohol was always the main attraction. If we were going to his family's house for any holiday or celebration, it was expected that the booze would be flowing and that it would be a rowdy party regardless of the occasion or day of the week. I used to always participate, so when I got sober I was extremely nervous to attend my first family function which was a Halloween party. At this point I still had the drinking habits and patterns strongly engrained in my mind that I knew it would be difficult being around other people who were drinking while I was not. So I went to the grocery store before hand and found myself the fanciest 6 pack blood orange flavored ginger beer (alcohol free) and geared up for the show. When we got there I immediate got myself a glass full of ice and poured myself a ginger beer with a lime garnish and guess what? Nobody even noticed that I wasn't drinking alcohol the whole time! I have found that most of the time, if we don't have a drink in hand when we normally would have in the past, people only ask us if we'd like a drink because they are trying to be polite! If we prepare for this, it removes the opportunity for somebody to be able to ask us, leaving us not even having to decline or explain ourselves in the first place.
Some of my favorite "mocktail" beverages are:
Powell & Mahoney Blood Orange Ginger Beer (this is out of stock online but I have been able to find it in Sprout super market)
4. Choose your events wisely.
If you are anything like me, my moods can change drastically from one day to the next. Even though I felt super confident after my success at the family Halloween party, that doesn't mean that every party after that was just as easy or simple. Christmas brought a whole new level of stress and temptation for me. I remember at the time I was seeing a hypnotherapist and I was telling him about my family situation. I told him how being around them when they were always drinking was extremely hard and how I was nervous for the Christmas get-together. he flat out told me "don't go, and don't feel bad about it." He told me that I needed to get over the guilt of not going and that I needed to always choose what was the best decision for my sobriety. I didn't feel 100% confident in my ability to stand strong around the temptation during Christmas, so I decided not to go. That was the best decision I could have made at that time for my sobriety. If you are in a place where you aren't feeling very solid in your sobriety, it may be best to avoid tempting situations all together. It's okay to be selfish when it comes to your sobriety.
5. Attend meetings and stay active in your recovery.
If this time of year is hard for you, you may want to increase your support system and spend more time focusing on your recovery. This could look different for each person whether you attend AA meetings, read books on sobriety, use different sobriety worksheets, meet up with your sober friends etc. Whatever support system you have in place, really lean into it during the holidays. If you are traveling, try to find a meeting before hand in the area you will be traveling to. If you have a go-to sobriety book that really helps you stay on course in your sobriety, read it in the days leading up to Christmas and New Years. Buy it on Audible and listen to it on repeat. Keep the information and tools fresh in your mind.
6. Have an escape plan.
If you will be attending a holiday party where you are unsure of what to expect, have an escape plan in place. Don't put yourself in an uncomfortable situation where you feel stuck. Drive your own car so that you can leave at any time or have your Uber app ready to go. Bring a sober buddy who understand you and your situation and is ready to be there for support.
7. Be prepared for questions.
In a perfect world we would be able to attend parties without a drink in hand and have our sobriety go unnoticed and unquestioned. But the reality is, this is one of the biggest struggles we have being newly sober (or just sober in general) in social situations. If you aren't going the mocktail route, be prepared to be offered a drink. Some people may not know you are sober and some people may not understand why you'd choose to be sober. So be prepared with your answers. For me, sobriety was never a secret. I made it known from the earliest of stages and didn't really have much of an issue turning down a drink when asked. I was always honest with my reasons for getting sober and if it was somebody who was familiar with my relationship with alcohol, they already knew that this decision was the best one. But for the strangers typically a "I am taking a break from drinking right now" would suffice. For the more persistent folks:
"I am taking medication that requires me not to drink on it"
"I have an early morning tomorrow"
"I am the designated driver tonight"
"I am giving my poor liver a break!"
"I am on a new health regimen that requires me to cut out alcohol for a while"
or a simple and honest
"I feel better when I don't drink"
"I gave up drinking for my health and sanity"
"I am more fun when I DON'T drink"
Whatever route you choose to go this holiday season, just make sure you have a solid and effective plan in place. Don't go into these situations blind. Most importantly, know that you are not alone. We just had Thanksgiving pass and one of the biggest things I noticed around this time is that there were a lot of people struggling. I am a part of many online sobriety groups and it seemed that most of us agreed that holidays bring a new level of struggle. You are not alone and there is no reason for you to be alone during these times. Join a Facebook group where you will be able to reach out to a group who is going through similar struggles as you and where you will be able to find instant connection and accountability.
You will find the information for the private Mindful Times sobriety group below.
Happy Holidays and stay strong my Dears!
** If you are sober, or curious about sobriety, we would love for you to join our Facebook group - Mindful Times Facebook Community for support, encouragement, accountability and questions.
Private Sobriety Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/511982812958932/
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