This will be my first sober holiday season. No matter what you may be in recovery from, this time of year can be filled with particularly slippery slopes. I’ve heard newly sober people talking about their anxiety about the holidays for months, and while I’ve been feeling pretty good about things as I approach 9 months of sobriety next week, the holidays do raise a necessary level of awareness.
With that, I’ve set my focus on having a well-prepared toolbox at my side and wanted to share some of my go-to plans. With a little preparedness and some gentle precautionary measures, we can embrace the joy in the holiday season – without the booze.
I’d also love to hear what’s in your toolbox this holiday season. Leave a message in the comments so that others might take away some helpful ideas.
Write a Letter From Your Future Self. Title it “How I Survived the Holidays Sober.” Carry it with you at all times. Email it to yourself or snap a photo of it with your phone if having an actual letter is too much. Read it when you need it or read it when you don’t. It’s there as a reminder of how proud you are going to be when you come out on the other side.
Rely on Ritual. Many people have either a morning or a night ritual, but during the holidays you may want to consider both. A little extra time for yourself could seriously come in handy. Practice what works for you: meditation, breath work, writing a gratitude list, pulling a tarot card, reading from something inspirational (maybe your future self letter), praying, or any other method that gives you an opportunity to reflect and reset. The important thing is to stick with it – that’s why it’s called a ritual.
Two-Minute Truth. This might be my favorite. If you find yourself being hit with a craving for a drink or the numbing mechanism of your choice, give yourself a quick time out. Even when surrounded by people, you can find two minutes to step away. Hit the bathroom if that’s what it takes. Spend those minutes looking at those thoughts in your head and ask yourself a few truth-telling questions: Where is this coming from? How does it serve me? Where will it lead if I give in? Will it be worth it? Spend two minutes with the truth and your thought patterns will shift.
Phone a Friend. Have someone on the ready in the event you need a voice of reason or just a moment to vent. I’ve known people who’ve talked of ducking into bathrooms (it’s becoming a theme) to text or call a friend when the going gets tough. If you don’t have someone who can be that person for you, turn to social media. I’ve written about it before, but a favorite of mine has been to use #recoveryposse on Twitter, when in a pinch. Don’t roll your eyes at the use of hashtags, trust me on this. The support it draws will blow your mind. Don’t have Twitter and don’t want it? How about Instagram? A quick search of the hashtags to all things related to #sobriety or #sober will turn up accounts that you might draw a moment of inspiration from.
Volunteer. Give your time to give to others in need over the holiday season. There is great reward and comfort in helping others.
Exercise. I know I have a tendency to let this get away from me many times during the year, but especially so during the holiday season. This year, it’s a priority item in the toolbox. Even only 20 minutes a day of something physical will do wonders for your mood and your overall well-being. It doesn’t have to be all-out sweaty exercise, it can be as simple as going for a walk. This might also open up a chance for you to throw in some ear buds and escape with a great audio book, podcast or playlist.
Hold Your Drink. If you are at a party, get your own drink and keep it in your hands. The more you have a drink in your hands, the less likely someone is going to offer to get you one. It keeps things simple.
Escape Plan. When attending an event, having an early exit plan is perfectly acceptable. Remember, slippery slopes are everywhere and if you find yourself on one, your sobriety and self-care is more important than what people might think if you leave early. This also means being careful not to rely on someone else as your ride. Plan ahead and be ready for your exit if you need it. Don’t second guess yourself here. If you start to sense that it’s time to go, that means it’s time to go.
With your tools in hand, go forward confidently this holiday season. Have fun, enjoy the clarity and the hangover-free mornings. Remember, just because we are sober does not mean we are boring!