The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most stressful. This is especially true if it is your first time navigating the holidays after going through a treatment program. Make sure you set some expectations to make sure you are staying sober around the holidays this and every year.
Don’t plan too much
There may be some usual events and traditions that you enjoy doing, but planning too much could overwhelm you. Being around alcohol and people who are drinking could be overwhelming, so don’t feel the need to say yes to each and every event you are invited to this year.
In addition, if you live in another town than the rest of your family, maybe visiting to see them this year could be too much. Perhaps you are still working on repairing fractured relationships with them, and the holidays could be too much too soon. Don’t be afraid to let them know you still need time to work on yourself; they will understand, and it will allow for a much better holiday season next year.
Avoid your triggers
The holidays can bring up a ton of triggers that you may not have even realized you had. Staying sober around the holidays includes much more than abstaining from use. It can naturally bring up a lot of stressful emotions, so can the pressure of hosting a “perfect” holiday party. Perhaps you are suffering from a co-occurring PTSD or anxiety disorder, and have issues with large crowds such as shopping malls or large parties. Instead of feeling the need to do these things, just try your best to avoid them. Shop online instead!
Another trigger could be returning to your childhood home or hometown and seeing people that you have not seen in a long time. This could bring up old emotions and bad habits. Spending too much time in this sort of situation could be easy to fall back into for someone who is newly sober, so think about taking this year off in the best interest of your sobriety.
Don’t feel confused or like a failure if you see some unexpected triggers arise – it could be used as an opportunity to learn. Take mental notes to keep in mind for next year’s holiday season so you will be better prepared to navigate them then.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
One of the parts of seeing family and friends that we haven’t seen in a while is they want to know how our lives have been. News can travel fast, and there is a possibility that people may ask you about treatment or your sobriety. In addition, people may have noticed that you had “gone M.I.A.” while you were in recovery, and they want to know why. People may also offer you a drink, and when you decline, they will want to know why you’re staying sober around the holidays. Instead of feeling anxious and stumbling over your words, prepare an answer to give them if they ask. Alternatively, you could also prepare a way to politely decline the conversation depending on your comfort level. A simple, “I don’t drink anymore,” or “Not tonight, I have to be up early!” could work if you don’t feel like getting too deep into it.
If you are attending holiday events, make sure you come prepared with a safe food or drink that you can have while at the party. This could include sparkling cider or juice to keep you feeling part of the celebration. It Is also a good idea to prepare an “exit strategy”, such as a reason you need to leave a party early, if you are feeling too triggered or overwhelmed. Don’t commit to staying the entire party. This means offering to help clean up, or drive intoxicated people home. That way, you could always leave early if you need to.
Lean on your support
Make sure you are open and honest to your support system about how you are feeling about staying sober around the holidays. Chances are, they have been where you are. Leaning on others and learning from their experiences will give you the confidence you need to stay sober around the holidays. Attend a few extra meetings and give support to others who may need it, as well.
You could also bring a sober companion with you to holiday celebrations to help keep yourself on track. Having another person at the party who is sober could help you feel more comfortable. They will be able to see when you might be feeling uncomfortable, and help you navigate conversations and situations.
About Pinelands Recovery Center
The holidays are full of family, food and good times. It can also be full of unexpected triggers and stressors. We are here for you to help you through the holidays with your sobriety intact, allowing you to spend quality time with your loved ones.
Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford is widely known as one of New Jersey’s finest, most respected addiction treatment facilities. With comfortable 30-bed accommodations and a 24-hour professional staff, we can offer clients a serene, relaxing environment amid the lush piney woods. This stress-free setting with its sense of warmth and welcoming enables you to feel comfortable and confident about your clean and sober life ahead.
We will establish clear goals, both general in nature and specific to your needs. We continue to
monitor those goals, to make sure that our clients are progressing and buying into their recovery
plan. We thrive on assisting clients in feeling connected to the recovery community, share and
demonstrate effective coping techniques, help clients to modify attitudes and patterns of
behavior and everything else you will need to be happy and productive living a sober, healthy
We ensure that clients complete their planned concrete tasks, encourage hope, optimism and
healthy living. Our recovery program is not a revolving door treatment program; it is a recovery
model designed to help clients go on to lead productive, happy lives. For more information, visit