The holiday season is meant to be a happy and joyous time spent celebrating life with loved ones. For those in early sobriety however, the festivities can present a number of stressful situations. This time of the year is filled with celebrations accompanied by alcohol (or other substances) which present an increased potential to make the newly sober feel quite uncomfortable at social gatherings. In fact, fear of the holiday season is absolutely normal for those who are early in their sobriety.
While these fears are perfectly normal, confronting them with tried and true coping skills can help bolster the chances of success during this season of heavy temptation. Getting sober shouldn’t have to mean walking on eggshells! Here, True Recovery has provided a list of some of the best coping skills for surviving the holiday season in early sobriety.
Recovery fellowships are well aware of the challenges of the holiday season and have a strong tradition of hosting marathon meetings for those who need them. These are typically round-the-clock meetings where members can retreat safely, if needed.
For those who live in areas that do not offer marathon meetings, or have transportation issues- no need to worry! Nearly every recovery fellowship (such as the Twelve Step fellowships or SMART Recovery) has round-the-clock online meetings available. As long as there’s an Internet connection, one can always be in touch with others in similar situations.
A strong emphasis is typically placed on building a support group in early sobriety – and for good reason. These connections can be relied upon during difficult times and uncomfortable situations. Being able to retreat from holiday parties and call fellow members of the support group can be an excellent way to deal with cravings, build confidence and share concerns.
While newcomers often worry about “bothering” fellow support group members during holiday occasions, it is important to understand that this is an unfounded fear. Recovery and fellowship are about mutually supporting each other through the difficult times, so reaching out to someone else is actually helping him/her as well.
Another major fear that accompanies the holiday season is being around family members or loved ones we may have harmed during our addiction. While we cannot change how people may feel about us, we can focus on being strong during such encounters. It is important to note – people are often surprised at just how fast loved ones forget a troubled past once they see a healthy, happy, and sober person in front of them.
Bringing another member of the fellowship or support group to a holiday gathering is an excellent option. Having someone there who understands the process can increase the comfort level and help to reduce any cravings or triggers that may arise.
Early sobriety is a learning process. It is also quite often a slow process, and certain situations may simply be too challenging to overcome. For this reason, it is necessary to have an exit strategy. This can be as simple as providing one’s own transportation (so as not to be reliant on others if the need to leave arises) or pre-arranging a departure with a trusted loved one.
It is also important to note that this is not a failure. While it may feel like a defeat, the truth is that every day of sobriety should be considered a success. This is a learning process that takes time.
While feeling trepidatious about the holidays is understandable, it should not be a barrier to enjoying celebratory events with friends, family and co-workers. Sobriety means a new life, free from the bondage of drug and alcohol addiction. At first it may be challenging, but in the long run, one will enjoy the holidays just as much as anyone else, and before long, dealing with these situations will become second nature.