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Smart Strategies for Staying Sober During the Holidays

The time from Halloween to New Year’s Day can be met with dread by people trying to stay sober. From work parties to family gatherings to social events galore, trying to face the holidays without drinking or using can feel nearly impossible. But whether you are new to recovery or are a family member of someone who is sober, there are steps you can take to stay clean during the holidays.

snowman in a corner

For Those in Recovery

When you are in treatment for an alcohol or drug addiction, relapse prevention classes teach you that certain times of the year are likely to make you feel more vulnerable to using again—the holidays chief among them. Statistically, 40–60% of people in recovery relapse at least once, which is considered part of the journey by many, given the chronic nature of addiction.

While there’s no guaranteed way to avoid relapse, there are steps you can take to give yourself the best chance of success in recovery. The first step is to recognize some of the common stressors so you can prepare for them or avoid them all together.

Sources of holiday stress include:

  • Being responsible for holiday preparations.
  • Worrying about how to pay for holiday-related items.
  • Experiencing heightened emotions (positive or negative) associated with seeing family, friends, and loved ones.

Adding the extra financial and emotional stress of the holiday season to the already difficult task of staying clean can become a recipe for disaster. To set yourself up for success, proactively plan for these issues by:

  • Scheduling regular check-ins with your sponsor or someone who is dedicated to helping you stay clean.
  • Communicating with your friends and family about how much time, effort, and money you are able to commit to during the holidays, setting clear expectations up front.
  • Sharing with family the ways they can support you through the holidays.
  • Taking time away from family for self-care when you need it.

For Families & Friends

helping in the kitchen
If you are a family member of someone in recovery, you may wonder how you can help them throughout the holiday season. These tips can help you create a positive environment for everyone.
  • Manage expectations and set healthy boundaries.
  • Be sure to value your own practical and emotional needs as much as theirs.
  • Communicate expectations ahead of time.
  • Be sensitive and mindful of their needs, but don’t suffocate them with your concerns—no helicopter parenting.

Despite the best-laid plans, some people will relapse during the holidays, and others will admit for the first time that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol. However, many will not seek help right away, perhaps because they don’t want to leave their families during the holiday festivities to begin inpatient rehab. But there are treatment options available.

Outpatient rehab programs allow you to attend treatment sessions for a set time during the day and then return home in the evenings and on weekends. Many people also supplement this form of care with peer support groups, such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. Other reasons outpatient might be a good choice for you during the holidays are that:

  • Research shows that the group format of treatment is as effective in relapse prevention training as more intensive, one-on-one counseling.
  • Outpatient rehab is far more affordable than private therapy or inpatient treatment.
  • You can receive a full range of substance abuse treatment in an outpatient program, including interpersonal process, psychoeducational, and skills-development groups.
  • Many outpatient programs include childcare services and transportation arrangements for scheduled sessions.

So, while the holidays can feel like navigating around a field of land mines, you can survive them with a good plan, communication, and support. If you have more questions about outpatient rehab options, call us today to speak with a treatment consultant.

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