Sobriety Safety for the Holidays!!!

The Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years holiday period is an extremely high risk time for relapse for people in substance abuse recovery. As we approach the holidays we need to remember that none of us are immune to relapse and it is smart to be thoughtful about protecting our sobriety and clean time. Some of the reasons people wind up relapsing are:

1. The nostalgia surrounding these holidays often make us look back on our past mistakes, and sometimes causes us to get a bad case of the “woulda, coulda, shouldas”. We use all that to beat ourselves up until we get into a bad enough emotional state that drinking and drugging seems to be the only way out.

2. The holidays are traditionally a time when families draw together for fun and renewing relationships. Unfortunately for many of us we are on the outs with our family, or not involved with them at all for a variety of reasons including geographical distance, burned bridges, or the family functions involve drinking/drugging. That heightened sense of loss can lead to looking for the familiar solace we found in our drug(s) of choice.

3. The holidays are a big partying time; times for celebration. For a lot of us the word celebrate was synonymous with “time to get lit”. And of course all the commercials, billboards, TV programs, signs in the stores etc. include liberal doses and messages of the importance of booze. So it’s all in our face and they make it look soooooo good. Those images, and the notion of “celebration” trigger our thoughts of the so called good times and before you know it you’re right back at it again (unless you prepare to avoid it).

4. The holidays are a time of gift giving. It makes us feel ashamed and less than when we do not have the money to participate in gift giving. Once again we beat ourselves up because of our monetary lack and sometimes that puts us in an emotional corner that we can not seem to get out of clean.

So how do you prepare yourself, or help someone you love prepare to survive the holidays? Here are some suggestions:

  • Do not be in denial – Relapse is a really big risk at this time of the year
  • Start now – To increase the amount of time you spend in recovery sustaining activity e.g. Add one meeting to your weekly routine, schedule an additional session of counseling, get more involved with your church activities; have talks with the people on your support team about the likely risk(s) that you may have
  • Start asking around -Be on the look out for sober and clean celebrations, parties, and dinners
  • Plan for safety – If you are going to be around drinking/drugging situations

Some suggestions for you to consider are to:

  • Set time limits for being there
  • Make sure you have an easy way to exit if you feel uncomfortable
  • Take a supportive person with you or find a support person who will also be there
  • Be true to yourself; sometimes not going at all is the healthiest choice
  • mprove your self talk – Remember every day clean is a successful day. Every “today” clean is a step toward healing the past and the foundation for a brighter tomorrow.
  • Give the gift of sobriety – Your biggest gift to those who love you is your sobriety. Being sane, being clean, being free, and being responsible means more to them than anything you could ever buy.