With calendars full of social events and family gatherings during the coming weeks, the holidays can be challenging for people in recovery, as well as their loved ones. Whether it’s the work party with an open bar, or a New Year’s Eve celebration offering an abundance of alcohol, triggers and temptations seem like they are everywhere. I would like to offer a few thoughts on how we can work together to make this time merry for all of us.
One common concern for people in recovery is being offered a drink by a well-meaning acquaintance who notices someone is walking by empty-handed. This dilemma can be overcome by bringing your own non-alcoholic beverage or keeping an alternative in hand.
It’s also perfectly acceptable to say “no.” In fact, learning how to say “no” is a valuable life skill that will help anyone make the most of holiday stressors. When you recognize your schedule is getting too busy, that you’re pushing your mental or physical limits, or a particular event may be filled with too many triggers, it may be wise to politely decline an invitation or two. Also, be sure to practice ahead of time so you can confidently respond when the situation arises.
In addition, have a plan for any situation that you might find uncomfortable. This may mean coming up with a reason not to participate in an activity, or knowing how and when to leave certain situations. This is where safety in numbers is helpful. Having a friend or two who are committed to the same sobriety goal can be a great motivator, and it provides support for potentially awkward situations.
Beyond thinking through routine holiday events, consider making this a special time to connect with the recovery community. There often are 12-Step meeting marathons on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve to attend. Plus, the Rosecrance Alumni community is busy throughout the season planning in-person and virtual fellowship events.
To make other connections, consider a focus on giving back. Volunteer to host a sober activity for friends in recovery, or help at one of the many organizations busy making spirits bright this time of year.
By being aware of your feelings and limits, you will be equipped to have fun without compromising the sobriety that you value. You may even discover freedom in doing things a little differently this year, and that could inspire others on their recovery journeys.
Self-awareness also is a thoughtful gift loved ones can give to friends and family in recovery. If your holiday activities usually include adult beverages, this is a good time to monitor your consumption habits. Friends who notice your moderation or abstention in their presence will appreciate this small gesture that may remove some of the temptation they may feel.
In addition, look out for people who want to maintain sobriety through these next few weeks. Offer to be the supportive accountability friend who will attend a few events with them, and if you know they are struggling to find safely sober activities, invite them to a gathering that you trust will be alcohol-free. Even better, consider hosting a social event that will forego alcohol this year.
As we come together with friends and families, let’s all do our parts so that each of us can have satisfying, sober celebrations full of memories. If you or a loved one have concerns about substance use or mental health, please talk to a trusted professional. Caring Rosecrance staff would love to talk to you. Our team may be reached by calling 888.928.5278.
I wish you a truly joyous holiday season.
And remember, life’s waiting.
Dr. Raymond Garcia
Rosecrance Harrison Campus