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  • Brooke Aymes

10 Ways to Stay Sober during the Holidays

1. Have a great support system

It is important to surround ourselves with people that are supportive of our sober lifestyle. Support groups and twelve step programs are helpful simply because of the support and relatability that they offer people in recovery. It can be beneficial to engage in social environments with people that are not only supportive of our lifestyle, but are also working towards a similar lifestyle and working towards similar goals. We are more likely to continue to be successful when we feel loved, supported and no longer alone in our struggles.

Males holding hands in an addiction support group helping one another through drug cravings.

2. Be Proactive about Self Care

The more we make ourselves a priority, the more we feel like a priority. When we feel good about ourselves, we are less likely to have a desire to use substances. Whether we are in the beginning of our recovery or have decades sober this is a crucial part of taking care of ourselves. We need to engage in activities that help us to quiet our mind and help us to feel good about ourselves to continue to boost our self esteem and to continue to combat any negative thinking patterns. The activities may look different for each person and that is okay, the most importance piece is that we are consistently engaging in them. For some it may listening to guided meditations or reaching meditations in the morning, for others it may be journaling and taking long baths, for others it may be engaging in exercise or sweat lodges.

3. Practice Mindfulness

The more we quiet our mind, the more clarity we will have. Engaging in self care will help us to practice quieting our minds and being fully present in the moment. We can begin to add this purposefully in other areas of our lives as well by making it a point to put our phones away and doing away with multi-tasking. Practicing being mindful in our everyday life will help us to have more self awareness which will help us to determine what holiday celebrations feel good to engage in and which do not feel good to engage in.

4. Call a Friend

When we are going into situations that can be stressful in recovery we can lean on our sturdy support system to help us through them. We can be honest and let our supportive friends or family know that we are entering into something that may be stressful and we can even have them on call at specific times if we need help or accountability.

5. Plan an escape

Many holiday celebrations include substance use and we may want to visit with family and friends that do not follow a sober lifestyle. We can visit with our family members without engaging in a slip up or a relapse by being aware of ourselves and grounding ourselves to prepare to feel our best before entering into the environment and by having an escape route to leave early if we feel triggered or begin having cravings to use.

6. Say no to stressful gatherings

There may be some holiday celebrations that we feel would be too risky for our sober lifestyle

recovery addict trying to stay sober at a family holiday party while people are making a toast with alcohol.

or we may have family members that are not supportive of a sober lifestyle and entering into that environment might cause us to feel anxiety. We do not have to engage in anything that makes us feel uncomfortable. We are never obligated to risk our sobriety. We can set firm boundaries, say no to stressful gatherings and we can offer to hang with those people at a different place and time if we want too.

7. Do not Compare

Recovery is not a one size fits all. What is going to be okay for someone else might not be okay for us and what is okay for us might not be okay for someone else and that is totally okay. We can only make decisions through a perspective of what is going to be best for us and our own recovery to continue to maintain long term sobriety.

8. Engage in activities that will bring you joy

Ask Yourself - What is going to bring you the most joy this holiday season? What activities would you just love to engage in? Are there specific holiday foods that you enjoy or light shows that you have always wanted to go see?

The best thing about recovery is no longer being dependent on a substance to make the rules for us anymore. We get to decide whatever it is that we want to do. If volunteering on Thanksgiving brings us the most joy rather than entering into a stressful family gathering than we can choose to go volunteer.

A person in a red apron in recovery from addiction volunteering to help them maintain long term recovery.

9. Forget Traditions

Traditions can be fun, predictable and familiar but they might not always be what is best for us. We can recreate our holidays whenever we want too. There is no such thing as should or supposed too. We do not have to cook a huge, homemade, everything from scratch Christmas Dinner if that is not financially or emotionally feasible for us. We do not have to engage in activities or traditions that risk our sobriety or that no longer bring us joy. We are always changing and each year might look different than the next. We can always decide how we want to spend our holidays based on what is going to protect our mental health and what is going to bring us the most happiness.

10. Look for Gratitude

Twelve step literature states that, ‘A grateful addict need not ever use,’ stressing the importance of feeling gratitude in everyday life. Gratitude is a feeling and is not something that can be forced. We cannot force ourselves to feel something regardless of how hard we try, however we can behave in ways that can influence how we feel. We can engage in daily practices like reading meditations, engaging in exercise, participating in self care activities and social events that may facilitate us to feel gratitude in our everyday life.


Nj Addiction therapist Brooke Aymes climbing Mt. Tammany at the Delaware Water Gap as a form of self care

Hey, I'm Brooke! I'm a licensed anxiety and addiction therapist serving individuals, adolescents and couples in the state of New Jersey. My experience brings both a personal and professional perspective to the work that I do with my clients. If you are interested in learning more about the therapy process and would like to schedule a free consultation, I would love to chat with you!

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