Navigating the Holidays

The holidays can be a treacherous time for those wanting to avoid alcohol and other mind-altering substances.  This time can be triggering for several reasons, attending work parties, family gatherings, increased stress, financial strains, and the list goes on and on.  The American Psychological Association has found that the holidays increase stress levels in 41% of women and 31% of men, increasing the risk of unhealthy coping strategies during this time. While the holidays can be a time of happiness and joy for many, others find it stirs up memories of painful pasts and a time for increased isolation.  Here are some suggestions to assist in navigating this time while maintaining sobriety. 

Planning ahead is the best strategy you can implement. If attending work or family gatherings it is important to think through how you will manage these events.  

  • Have an entry and exit plan.  Arrive early, leave early or arrive late and leave early
  • Bring your own drinks and have a drink in hand as often as possible.  This helps alleviate the uncomfortable “may I get you a drink” question.
  • Plan how to refuse a drink offer and practice this beforehand.  Know that you are under no obligation to drink or use.  When offered, look the individual in the eye (this shows you are serious), say no, and then change the subject.
  • Arrange alternative transportation if necessary.  Take an extra vehicle if you need to escape the situation, have Uber, Lyft or a taxi service readily available on your phone. 
  • Bring a supportive friend or family member who knows your situation to help with accountability.  If that is not possible, you can have periodic checks ins with someone via text or a phone call every so often. 
  • Know that you can you leave the gathering at any time an urge becomes too unbearable.  If you need to, step away outside, to an empty bedroom or the bathroom to regroup, take some deep breaths and let the urge pass. 
  • Remember that most people are not as concerned about whether you are drinking or using and are more focused about themselves as opposed to watching what you are doing. 
  • Set up your own plans with friends or loved ones in environments of your choosing and at times of day that drinking or using may be most unlikely to occur. 

While this list is not exhaustive, it offers some suggestions on navigating high risk situations and can hopefully assist you in thinking about the various ways one can manage holiday events and environments.  Staying connected with sober support, making sure to eat well, get rest, exercise and practice stress reducing coping skills will also assist in building overall stress tolerance.  If you need assistance in tailoring a plan more specific to your situation or find the holidays to be particularly difficult to manage drinking or using, give us call, we are here to help.  

Happy Holidays!