You’ve probably started to see the invitations rolling in for holiday get-togethers and end-of-the-year parties with co-workers, friends, and family. For many people in recovery, these invitations can bring on a whole lot of stress and can unintentionally threaten one’s sobriety. If you are struggling with how to maintain your sobriety this holiday season, come up with a plan now for how you are going to handle those unavoidable triggers and urges that may arise at social gatherings. Use the following 5 tips to help you get started:
1) Remind yourself why you want to be sober
Remind yourself every morning of why you want to be sober and what you are going to do that day to maintain your sobriety. Stay focused on your intentions. It may be helpful to make a list of your reasons and keep them in your wallet or store them electronically on your cell phone for a daily reminder. That way, if you find yourself in a high risk situation, you have something with you to remind you why you don’t want to drink or use, even as that addict voice is trying to manipulate you to relapse. Be sure to revisit the list often and add to it as you find new reasons to maintain your sobriety.
2) Serve yourself at parties
People may unknowingly put you in a high risk situation by offering you a drink. And, if you allow someone else to serve you, you can’t be 100% certain of what’s in your glass. If you can bring your own beverage to a party, do it! It’s always best to avoid the bar, if possible. If you can’t bring your own beverage, go directly to the bar when you arrive and help yourself to a non-alcoholic option. Make sure that you always have a full beverage in hand, so people will be less likely to offer you a beverage or to top off your drink. This will help you to avoid any situations in which you feel pressured to say yes, when you really mean to say no.
3) Bring a sober friend with you
Be honest about your recovery efforts and enlist the help of a sober friend, sponsor, or person that knows you are in recovery to help you remain accountable throughout the evening. Talk with this person about your concerns before going to the party and come up with a plan to check in throughout the evening. If you can’t physically bring someone with you, make plans to text and/or call a sober support person throughout the evening, so the accountability is still there.
4) Have an exit plan
Before you go to the party, talk with your support system and come up with an exit plan in the event that you need to leave the situation quickly. Urges can escalate quickly and, sometimes, the best plan is to get away from any alcohol and drugs as fast as possible. Have your keys on you or discuss an exit strategy with your ride. If you don’t want to tell people you’re in recovery, make up a reason that you have to leave beforehand and rehearse it with your support system. That way, they’ll know when you say “I have a headache,” you really mean “I need to get out of here, fast. And, I could really use your support right now.”
5) Deal with uncomfortable feelings as they arise
If you have been open and honest about your recovery efforts, it is likely that you have fielded the question “Do you mind if I have a drink?” on at least one occasion. Acknowledge any resentment, anger, jealousy, or other uncomfortable feelings that may arise when other people are drinking or using drugs around you. Respond accordingly by using your support system and leaving the situation, if necessary. Make sure to amp up your involvement in recovery-related activities after you attend events as well, so any uncomfortable feelings that arise the next morning don’t drive you to relapse.
There you have it, 5 simple tools to help you maintain your sobriety over the next couple months. If you could use additional support to maintain your sobriety this holiday season, contact me to discuss how therapy can help.