Navigating the Holidays Substance-Free

Posted by Prelude on Nov 2, 2016 10:16:56 AM


The holidays are stressful: traveling, the pressure to give the right gifts, the reminder of so many holidays gone wrong…

How do you approach the season as a recovering addict? How do you start fresh? And how do you cope without giving into temptation? What works for some might not work for others, but in general, there are steps you can take to help you prepare for the season and keep yourself occupied and sober.


Prepare for Family Gatherings

You don’t get to choose your relatives—some may judge you, some will support you, and others might struggle with addiction just like you do. Whether you like it or not, you have a history with your family that you can’t change. Acknowledge your past, but build for the future.

If you know your family or friends will be drinking at the holiday gathering you’re attending, give yourself a mission to keep yourself distracted. This could be learning the names of all your relative’s pets, giving your in-laws a sincere complement, or helping the host cook or clean. Likewise, if you’re visiting your hometown, stay away from the usual suspects who will try to goad you into using or drinking and places where the temptation is too great to manage. 

If you decide that it’s best to skip the family plans this year (and it’s OK if you do), make it a point to meet up with friends or attend extra support group meetings. You don’t have to spend the holidays alone—reach out to others on addiction forums, write a pen pal, or meet up with colleagues from work.


Make Plans for Your Time Off

Time off from work can leave you feeling idle and tempt you to use out of boredom. Use this time for something productive, like starting a new hobby or project. Remember to give yourself deadlines and hold yourself to them. If you feel like taking it easy, reacquaint yourself with the movie theatre—many are open year-round, even on Christmas. 

During your time off, you may start to feel listless or anxious. Remember to take care of yourself and focus on your health. Pay close attention to your diet and don’t skip meals! This can lower your blood sugar, causing irritability and impulsiveness—the perfect combination for a relapse.


Don’t Let Commercial Pressures Ruin the Season

With the holidays comes pressure to give the perfect gift—if you don’t have the budget or the resources to find the right gifts, or if you feel pressure to compete with your family’s more aggressive gift-givers, agree to hold off on a gift exchange this year or establish a few giving guidelines with whomever you’re exchanging presents with. These could include a spending cap, or requesting that any gifts be handmade. You can also elect to do a white-elephant gift exchange where the presents are all second-hand items that come from your house.


Make Time for Reflection

As the season comes to an end, reflect on how everything went. Did you stick to your goals? Did you find positive ways to cope with temptation? Did you relapse? Be honest with yourself and write down your thoughts on paper—don’t keep it inside.

When you’re done collecting your thoughts, read them over and make a list of your goals for the coming year—what do you want to accomplish? Create actionable goals that you can measure and follow through on. For instance, instead of “get sober,” try “go 30 days without a drink.”

Afterwards, create deadlines for your goals and add them to a personal calendar. Cross them off your calendar as you complete them, making sure to reward and thank yourself. At the end of the year, you can then flip through your calendar and see what you followed up on, and what you fell behind on.


Was there a time in your life when advice helped you overcome temptation? Use your voice to help others who are struggling this holiday season and share your story here.

Recovery Starts Today  

Topics: Recovery, College, Drinking, Alcoholism

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From prevention to intensive residential care, Prelude offers a range of services to help you and your loved one lead a full, productive life.  Prelude Behavioral Services has been providing comprehensive services since 1969. We are committed to serving hard-to-reach and disenfranchised populations and to breaking down barriers that hinder access to behavioral health care for all Iowans.



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