Although the lights and sights of the holiday season are aesthetically pleasing, it is no secret that this time of year can bring extra stress and strain. Although the added weight can be challenging for everyone, for those in recovery, the challenge can be even more significant. An increased frequency of social gatherings and celebrations present more opportunity to test sobriety for those who are new in recovery, as well as for those who have years of sobriety under their belts. In addition, the holidays often bring about family conflicts, loneliness, grief and increased financial costs.

All of these issues can be summarized as increased stress. Many theories exist that cite stress as a substantial contributing factor to the initiation of alcohol abuse disorders, as well as relapse from sobriety (Brady & Sonne, 1999). Being aware of the potential challenges and taking proactive action is essential. The American Addiction Centers (AAC) has provided tips for staying sober during the holiday season. I have listed some of my favorites here:
Bring a sober friend with you to holiday parties so you can both support each other.

Have an escape plan. Know that you can leave a party as soon as you feel you need to. This could include ensuring you drive yourself.
Prepare a response to questions from guests who are unaware of your recovery journey. Know how you will respond when someone asks why you’re not drinking. A smooth prepared response will help you quickly avoid temptation.

Set limits. Know that you do not have to attend every party. Learn how to say no without feeling guilty. You need to do what is best for you.
Stay busy doing healthy and productive things. Make healthy choices that keep your body feeling good and have a positive impact on your mental well-being. You will be less likely to reach for a drink if you are feeling good about yourself.

Be open about your recovery journey. When you are honest with the people around you, they can support you.
If you attend Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, keep going. Prearrange your schedule to ensure you don’t miss regular meetings, and maybe even increase the number of meetings you visit (American Addiction Centers, 2018).

Participate in self-care to ease stress. Take time for yourself and participate in your favorite activities. My favs are yoga, meditation, reading, and hiking in nature.

Ultimately, accepting that there will be inconveniences and challenges along the path of recovery will be beneficial. The key is planning and preparation. Let’s face it, planning and preparation in all areas of life could quite possibly prevent much of the suffering we endure. Sobriety is a choice to be made and committed to every day. Make that choice, take the steps, prepare and plan, I promise you, it is worth it.

“We can not, in a moment, get rid of habits of a lifetime” -Mahatma Gandhi
Sara Rowe, BSN, RN

If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, give us a call us at the Top of the World Ranch in Milan, Illinois. Come join us at our beautiful ranch surrounded by the beauty of nature. Call toll-free at 1.844.814.8885 or email at help@topoftheworldranch.com.

References
American Addiction Centers. (2018). Guide to staying sober during the holiday’s toolkit. Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/holiday-2019
Brady, K., & Sonne, S. (1999). The role of stress in alcohol use, alcoholism treatment, and relapse. Alcohol Research & Health, 23, (4). Retrieved from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh23-4/263-271.pdf