While holiday parties and festivities are common throughout this time of year, such celebrations can be challenging for those navigating their sobriety. Whether preparing for their first sober holiday season or working to establish long-term sobriety, preparing for the unique stresses of the holidays is essential. Altering the way an individual celebrates Christmas, Haunakka, Kwanzaa, and the New Year is necessary. Know that it is possible to maintain sobriety during the holiday season while still enjoying time with friends and family. 

The Challenges of the Holidays

Commonly, holidays are a time of celebration. However, they are also a stressful time, and this remains especially true for those navigating their sobriety. Holiday celebrations can carry a myriad of challenges for individuals in recovery. Learning how to prepare for these challenges effectively can make all the difference.

Presence of Drugs and Alcohol

First, ensuring that there are no drugs or alcohol in the house is paramount. Individuals in recovery must also avoid engaging in traditions that may have been previously tied to substance use. Doing so can lead someone to experience cravings and urges or cause them to romanticize their past drug use. 

Likewise, these things increase the chances of relapse. Some innocuous traditions that can continue carrying these connotations may include watching a sporting event or engaging in family games that involve alcohol or other drugs. Changing these traditions, or even an individual’s social circle is necessary to celebrate the holidays in a transformed, sober manner.

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Mental Health Challenges

Others may still be feeling a great amount of anxiety and depression or facing other emotional challenges during this time. Guilt and shame can remain prevalent even well into a person’s sobriety. These emotions may cause them to believe that they are somehow unable or unwilling to participate in holiday festivities. Changing the connotations and expectations around the holiday is necessary to ensure individuals are able to celebrate the tidings of the holiday season.

Social Relationships

The holiday season can also be difficult due to social relationships. While attending a holiday party, an individual may not have control or say over the others in attendance. Different families and social groups can have vastly different levels of understanding of addiction as a disease or the recovery process. Misunderstandings, pervasive stigmas, or unfair judgments are difficult to navigate if someone feels forced to share in festivities alongside others who do not understand or support their dedication to a sober life. 

How anxiety affects families and relationships

Celebrating the Holidays Sober

While the holiday season can be wrought with unique challenges, that doesn’t mean an individual has to exclude themselves from the holiday spirit. However, it does mean that they may have to prepare accordingly for the challenges of the holidays. There are always new strategies one can employ to ensure that they remain sober during the holidays while retaining their enjoyable atmosphere. 

Have an Escape Plan

Working with support to have an escape plan is necessary. Even if an individual is employing other strategies throughout the holidays, they can never prepare for every single possible situation. Therefore, it may be necessary to physically distance themselves from certain events. Ensuring that they can exit a situation if an itinerary goes off-script is essential for prioritizing sobriety during this time. 

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Attend With a Support

Attending events during the holidays alone can be dangerous, especially if an individual is exposed to those who do not know about or understand their sober goals. If an individual in recovery is attending a holiday party, it may be best to do so alongside a sober friend or peer met in a center for alcohol and drug treatment. They can provide an understanding ear as well as an additional set of eyes to keep an individual focused and accountable for their sobriety throughout the holiday season. 

Propose New Activities

Changing the culture of the holidays is important for creating new expectations for navigating this time sober. Proposing new activities, such as seeing a movie or attending an event to replace previous traditions, can help an individual further emotionally distance themselves from the routines and traditions of the past. This can also set new expectations for future festivities, helping to give a new feel to the holidays in recovery.

Keep Busy

There can be a lot of hustle and bustle in any kind of celebration, and the holidays are no different. A lack of direction or too much downtime can invite unnecessary urges or cravings. Keeping busy and helping to keep the event moving can provide focus and direction during celebrations for individuals in recovery. Examples of keeping busy at gatherings may include helping with cooking, setting the table, or setting up and organizing activities.

Do exercise, keep busy

Hosting the Event

Even if an individual is prepared, they cannot ensure that others’ holiday parties will remain substance-free. However, if they are dedicated to their sobriety, they can choose to host an event. Not only does this allow those in recovery to set clear expectations on the absence of drugs and alcohol, but it also allows an individual to curate the guest list to only those most supportive and willing to explore a new way to celebrate the holidays. They can also set clear times, ensuring that they have time for rest and can keep focused alongside caring support for a truly transformative and sober holiday season. 

The holidays present many challenges, even for those continuing to balance their personal lives and sober ambitions. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we understand the difficulties that can come with the holiday season. We are committed to helping you continue to manage your sobriety while navigating the holidays. Our luxury substance abuse treatment extends even to alumni outside of our walls. Our continued outpatient programs and support can help you prepare for a sober and fulfilling holiday season. We create communities of peers and professionals alike ready to help you personalize your recovery at any stage. For more information on how we can help continue to support your sobriety throughout the holidays, call us at (866) 390-5070.