Birthdays, weekends, vacations and anniversaries – pretty much any day of the year can present a trigger to a recovering addict or alcoholic. But more than any season, the winter holidays are a potentially dangerous time when it comes to maintaining your sobriety.
No matter which holiday you celebrate – if you celebrate the holiday season at all – it’s important to have a plan in place that will help you make it to the new year with your hard-won clean time intact.
First, decide how you’ll spend the season. If you normally celebrate with family and friends, will you join in or will you be better off taking a pass this year? What will your meeting schedule look like and how will you accommodate it?
Luckily, most 12 Step meetings continue on through the holidays, with some even offering 24-hour “marathon meetings” on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, for people who don’t want to be alone.
Taking a commitment at such a meeting or even doing an act of service just by showing up is a great way to stay connected to your recovery in the midst of holiday stressors. Your home group might even host a holiday party, too!
But if you decide to spend time celebrating with “normies,” make sure you know what you’re getting into – and how you can get out.
It’s often helpful to find out ahead of time if alcohol will be served, and if it’s going to be there, you can think about how you plan to decline it.
Bringing along a “sober buddy” is another great strategy for facing down the temptation and stress of celebratory drinking.
At the very least, make sure you have the number of a few clean and sober friends in your phone, to text or call if you need a lifeline.
Most importantly of all, make sure you have an exit strategy. Whether you bring your own transportation or save money to leave by cab or Uber, it’s crucial for you to feel like you can simply leave if the temptation starts to get too heavy.
Depending on someone else for a ride – especially if that person has been drinking – is a recipe for disaster that can keep you trapped in a dangerous situation.
And if you do have to leave, don’t be ashamed. Be grateful you can celebrate the holidays, clean and sober!