December may be the most festive month. Families decorate their homes with holiday lights. Children fill out wish lists and anxiously anticipate Christmas morning. And adults sip on their peppermint-flavored beverages while finalizing shopping tasks.
But holiday parties and New Year’s Eve celebrations also define the season. These social gatherings allow people to dress up, drink alongside one another and count down to the end of the year. However, not everybody looks forward to these occasions.
During the holidays, many people in recovery deal with cravings. Seeing peers drink at an open bar can trigger urges to use alcohol. The sight of beer bottles or wine glasses, holiday-decorated taverns or even alcohol-related advertisements on TV or billboards can cause strong cravings.
If you have a history of alcohol addiction, you know the difficulties this time of the year present. However, you can take steps to stay sober during Christmas and New Year’s Eve — holidays during which drinking is popular — and still enjoy the festivities.
If you are new to recovery or concerned about how you will handle your sobriety this year, attend support group meetings and reach out to people in similar situations. People in long-term recovery can provide tips and encouragement for staying sober during the holidays. Attending 12-step meetings allows you to interact with these individuals and practice your principles of recovery.
Spending time with loved ones, friends or colleagues who respect your recovery can help you avoid triggers and relapse. These individuals do not pressure you to drink, nor do they shame you for your sobriety. While you are around, they are respectful of your situation and engage in activities that do not involve alcohol.
If you choose to attend a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party, try nonalcoholic drinks. These beverages contain little or no alcohol. And they are similar in taste, consistency and smell to traditional alcoholic drinks. By drinking a nonalcoholic beverage, you can still experience a holiday celebration alongside friends and co-workers.
During the holidays, people often post photographs on social media that can be triggering to individuals in recovery. These photographs may include people drinking alcohol with friends at a holiday party. A study by the University of Pittsburgh found that using multiple social media platforms increases a person’s risk of depression. Deactivating your social media accounts for a few weeks could help reduce stress that can lead to relapse.
Everybody has a hobby. It may be running around the neighborhood, reading a book, hiking or relaxing by a lake. During the holidays, engage in healthy, enjoyable activities that ease stress and clear your mind.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve are intended to be celebratory occasions. So feel free to celebrate on your own terms, alongside family and friends, doing things you want to do. And do not feel pressured to hang out with your peers if you know they will be drinking.
Your recovery is important. Despite the ubiquity of alcohol during the holidays, you can avoid triggers in numerous ways. If you experience stress, confide in loved ones, support group members or your counselor. Always remember that you control your sobriety.