Relapse is a real concern for anyone in recovery during the holidays. Drinking and going to parties are part of the holiday celebration for many people and often expected at social occasions. This doesn’t mean you must participate, but it sure makes it all the more difficult.

And you might visit family with members who drink. Or  find yourself alone with the temptation to drink or use. The good news is you can anticipate triggers, events and people who may set you off to want to use again. Be prepared in advance and make sobriety your Christmas gift to yourself.

Here are 10 tips to help you navigate this time of year.

  1. Be ready to answer difficult questions from your family, e.g., why did you lose your job, what happened to your marriage, why are you not joining us in the toast, etc. Think of your answers ahead of time and have a response ready. These questions can be triggers to using, so plan ahead.
  2. If you become bored, irritable, or begin to feel there is too much time together, prepare healthy distractions. Ask someone to take a walk. Drive to a park with the kids. Play a video or card game with someone. Distraction is a good way for the brain to reengage the thinking part!
  3. If time alone is a trigger, plan that time–maybe use it to do a gratitude journal, think about how you want the new year to look sober, read the Bible or pray. Basically use the time to refresh.
  4. If things get tense, take a break or a grown up time out, but have substance free places to go. Managing time alone is a skill adults must learn and using is a way to escape and avoid rather than practice alone time in a healthy way.
  5. Get sleep. When we are tired, we let our guard down and easily give in to temptation. Make sleep a priority.
  6. Decide which parties or invitations you will accept. If you know certain people and gatherings will trigger you to use, decline the invitation. Your sobriety is worth it!
  7. If you have to make an appearance,  go late, leave early! Show up, but show up for a short amount of time. The minute you feel craving and wanting to use at the event, leave or find someone who will help you.
  8. Establish new traditions that don’t include substances. One of the best new traditions is adding service to your life.  Serve at your church, in the community or for an organization or event. Help at a homeless shelter, serve meals or participate in fund raising events.
  9. Make plans to attend your recovery group. To avoid relapse, stay connected, have friends on speed dial and check in to make sure you don’t relapse.This is not the time to take a holiday break.
  10. Stay spiritually connected. Recovery includes connecting to your higher power, so don’t forget to exercise spiritual discipline during this time. When we are weak, God is strong. This is key to staying sober or clean so make time during the busyness of the season to stay spiritually strong.
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