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  • Holiday Season Stress | 10 Tips For Those In Recovery

    Holiday Season Stress | 10 Tips For Those In Recovery

    From shopping for gifts to attending family gatherings, the holidays bring a number of stressors. If you’re recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, these stressors can lead to relapse. To make matters worse, most holiday parties feature alcohol or other substances.

    Stay sober this holiday season by following these ten tips.  

    1. Take Care Of Yourself

    The best way to manage stress is to practice self-care. 

    Throughout the holiday season and beyond, get at least eight hours of sleep and eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and other nutritious foods. These practices strengthen both your physical and mental health, which reduces your risk of relapse. 

    You should also take time each day to engage in relaxing activities such as:

    • meditating
    • reading
    • taking a bath
    • listening to music
    • painting or drawing
    • spending time outside

    2. Practice Gratitude

    During your addiction recovery journey, you may sometimes feel shame, guilt, and uncertainty, especially in times of stress. 

    To reduce these unpleasant feelings, focus on gratitude. Every day, write down a couple of things you’re grateful for. You can write down significant triumphs, such as your recovery from addiction, as well as simple pleasures, such as a favorite song.

    Over time, this practice can boost your mood and help you manage stress more effectively. 

    3. Don’t Accept Every Invitation

    Between family reunions, work parties, and get-togethers with friends, you may be invited to numerous holiday events. If you attend every single one, you’ll likely get overwhelmed, which can raise your risk of relapse. That’s why you should only go to events that truly interest you. 

    You should also avoid events that may be triggering. For example, it’s wise to skip an event that’s held somewhere you used to drink or use drugs. 

    You may even want to stick to parties that feature no alcohol at all, especially if you’re early in your recovery. 

    4. Bring Your Own Drinks

    When you attend a party, don’t assume the host will offer non-alcoholic drinks. Instead, bring your own water, soda, juice, or non-alcoholic holiday beverage. The internet offers numerous recipes for non-alcoholic punches, mocktails, and other festive drinks.

    No matter what drinks you bring, always keep one in your hand. That way, no one will ask if you need a refill, which means you’ll be less tempted to indulge in alcohol. You can also pour your drink in a red solo cup so people can’t tell it’s non-alcoholic. 

    5. Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations

    At holiday gatherings, friends and family members may ask about your sobriety. Many people in recovery find these conversations triggering. If you’re one of them, explain that you’d rather not talk about your recovery right now. 

    Also, consider preparing a list of questions and topics to bring up yourself. This can help you quickly change the subject when necessary. 

    6. Plan An Exit Strategy

    If you feel triggered during an event, you should leave immediately. That’s why it’s important to plan an exit strategy.

    For instance, if you feel uncomfortable leaving a party early with no explanation, prepare an excuse. Examples include “I have to wake up early tomorrow,” “I have to go walk the dog,” or simply “I’m not feeling well.” 

    In addition, it’s a good idea to drive yourself to the event so you can leave whenever you want. 

    You could also show up late so you can spend less time at the party without leaving before everyone else. 

    7. Rely On Your Support Network

    You don’t have to navigate holiday stress on your own. Consider bringing a sober friend or two to all events so you’re not the only person who isn’t drinking or using other drugs. 

    You can also attend 12-step programs or other support groups. There, you’ll connect with people facing similar challenges. They can help you prepare for potential triggers before an event or manage cravings after an event. 

    8. Attend Therapy

    Along with turning to your sober friends, you should also seek professional help. If you don’t already have a therapist, try to find one before the holiday season kicks off. They can help you develop coping skills to manage holiday-related triggers.

    In addition, after the season ends, your therapist can help you reflect on your experiences and prepare for a successful new year. 

    9. Start New Traditions

    Attending alcohol-filled parties isn’t the only way to celebrate the holidays. Other options include:

    • baking
    • making festive crafts
    • watching holiday movies
    • caroling
    • ice skating

    You can also spend some of your holiday season volunteering. Volunteering is a great way to stay busy, connect with others, and feel more grateful for your own life. During the holidays, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and similar organizations need more volunteers than ever. 

    10. Host A Drug-Free Holiday Gathering

    If you love parties but don’t want to get triggered, host your own sober holiday celebration. Plan drug-free activities like gift exchanges, holiday movie trivia, and holiday-themed charades.

    You could even set up a sober bar featuring hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and toppings like whipped cream, caramel, and chocolate shavings. Your sober friends will appreciate the opportunity to spread holiday cheer without the risk of relapse. 

    If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our addiction treatment centers provide a variety of inpatient and outpatient services, including medical detox, support groups, and therapy.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Coping with Substance Use Disorder during the Holidays
    National Library of Medicine - The role of stress in addiction relapse
    State of New Jersey Department of Health - Holidays challenge people with substance abuse disorders

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on May 25, 2022
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