The holidays can be a trigger for so many of those who have chosen sobriety.

You’re not alone.

The holidays are not always the most magical time of the year. I used to work at a domestic violence agency, and the holidays were often a heavy-traffic time, unfortunately.

The holiday season can bring about a lot of stressors. There is heightened drinking, which is often more socially accepted and encouraged during the holidays. There are also family members thrust together who might not otherwise spend a lot of time together. Hosting gatherings can be stressful, so can coming up with enough money for all the holiday presents. Families are often traveling, which can be stressful. Finally, for those experiencing grief or a loss (either through death or divorce), the holidays can be a difficult time.

I know many in the recovery community say “one day at a time” when it comes to sobriety, but with the typical stressors listed above, it just makes sense to plan as much as possible.

See the photo above? Courtesy of the J Crew catalog that came in the mail 🙂 – look at those tiny drink glasses! And, as we know: “the more, the merrier” is NOT the case regarding alcohol!

That festive picture (with the little tiny glasses) is an illusion. 

We can quit the pressure of TV ads, media marketing, advertising, movies, and what we see on our Facebook feed (which are only the “highlights” anyway).

Here are my tips for how to survive (and thrive!) during the holiday season:

Plan in advance the amount of contact you will have.

-If traveling out of town, consider staying in your own Airbnb or hotel. It’s easy to devise an excuse such as: “We don’t want to take up your whole house,” or, “The kids still wake up super early, so we’ll all sleep better!”

-If finances or other circumstances don’t allow this, shorten your trip (how many days/nights you will stay).

Come up with ways to respond to questions about your drinking or other “hot topics” ahead of time that you’re comfortable with that keep the peace but also respect your own boundaries.

Sometimes, we’re thrust together with family who tend to get under our skin (or are flat-out toxic.) You know your family and the things that will likely come up better than anyone. You can plan ways to respond ahead of time. In the event of a truly aggressive family member or unsafe situation, have an escape plan and leave if necessary. Also, you should already plan to leave early and have a set time for when it’s time to go (or if you’re in the same house when it’s time to head to bed.) You don’t need to stay up until 10, 11, or 12 anymore when everyone is getting boring and slurring their words if you don’t want to.

If you are going to a gathering, take your own car. Also, decline to be the designated driver.

We already established you don’t have to stay up past when the intoxicated people are no longer enjoyable. You need to be able to leave when you want. Plan some treats for you when you return, like a special dessert, a relaxing bath, etc. Remember: going home early is not a punishment; you’re looking forward to it!

Tell people in advance that you’re not drinking:

This can take some of the pressure off of making a split-second decision when offered a drink in the moment, hopefully easing any dread beforehand. Note: you don’t owe anyone an explanation. For example: “I’m just sleeping/feeling/eating/working out so much better these days without it!”

Bring your own drinks!

If you want an option other than apple juice or water, come ready with your own drinks. I love sparkling water or kombuchas. I even love sparkling water mixed with kombuchas. 

I also enjoy Moment brand drinks, which are packed with calming adaptogens and mood-boosting ingredients (think L-theanine for mental clarity & ashwagandha to fight stress). They offer still or sparkling varieties, and of course, they are alcohol-free with no added sugars or caffeine. I love that it’s woman-owned, and 1% of all sales go to mental health nonprofits! Use the code RISINGSOBER to get %15 off at checkout!!

The AF (alcohol-free) drink community has also come a loooong way, and this might be a great option (as long as it’s not triggering for you.) I love Gruvi Prosecco (0.0% alcohol), which allows me to feel festive. The point is many drinks are out there to help you feel a little “fancier” for a special occasion.

Adjust your expectations.

It’s okay to change things up! If there’s something you are particularly dreading, have a look at that. For example, I’ve dreaded the cooking part and have purchased the meal. The family still enjoyed it 🙂 Maybe you spend that time doing something different you wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise, such as seeing Christmas lights, playing a board game, watching a movie, going for a walk, etc.

Pick a value that is important to you 

You may be persistent and can do hard things. You may be the sort of person who keeps promises you make to yourself. When we quit drinking, we shape and become more aligned/congruent with our identities and values. We can’t control other people, and how they behave, or even what they may choose to say about us not drinking, but we can control ourselves. There’s a lot of personal satisfaction in that.

If all else fails: You can create a new holiday tradition if necessary. 

Your sobriety comes first. Remember to reach out to friends and loved ones you trust for support.

Cheers & Happy Holidays!

Share this :

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top