Thanksgiving is behind us, something for which those dealing with alcoholism or addiction may truly be thankful.

It may have been a long weekend of dealing with family dynamics and the assorted difficult relationships we’ve successfully avoided since the last gathering of the clan. For people in recovery, just getting through the turkey-and-stuffing festivities and attendant relationship anxieties without falling into relapse often requires nerves of steel and heroic effort.

And now with Thanksgiving behind us, we’re faced with the even greater challenge of the month-long run up to Christmas and New Year’s. This annual five week period is the time of year when the liquor industry makes more than a quarter of annual profits, when more people die in alcohol-related traffic accidents, and when binge drinking and recreational drug use become de rigeur at many holiday parties. The expectation that everyone will join in on every impromptu alcoholic toast to The New Year presents a particularly difficult challenge to those committed to their daily sobriety.

For some people, of course, the pressures to drink or relapse into drug use during the Holidays comes not from the increased social pressures swirling around them, but from the quite the opposite. Feelings of social isolation or loneliness are often brought into sharp focus when everyone else seems to be enjoying family, friends, and constant festivities. For those who are alcohol or drug dependent and struggling to maintain sobriety, this is hardly a season of joy, and eleven months (or longer) of self-discipline can suddenly dissolve under the stresses brought upon by the Holiday Season.

If you’re on the road to wellness and committed to your sobriety, here are a few tactics to make it easier on yourself during the Holidays:

  • If certain family members are a source of anxiety—for whatever reason, and any reason you have is a valid reason—and bring you stress, pain, or the urge to drink or use, you owe it to yourself to make any excuse to be avoid contact with them. Instead of accepting the annual invitation to join the “big family get-together,” pull together a few trusted friends and have your own pain-free celebration. Declining that invitation from Mom might be awkward for a moment, but the benefits to you and your sobriety in avoiding toxic people will be well worth a moment of maternal guilt-tripping.
no thanks to alcohol

When it’s an offer you CAN refuse.

  • When you’re not hosting a holiday gathering, the menu may well be beyond your control. When you know alcohol will be served and the host isn’t inclined to make it a “dry” event by serving only non-alcoholic beverages —as is often the case at adult dinner parties, office celebrations, and happy hour get-togethers—remember that you are in control and politely declining the invitation will go a long way toward building your self-respect and earning the respect of others. No matter how wonderful the rest of the menu may be, no matter the social profile of the event, your emotional and physical health are always of much greater importance.
  • The holidays are great for reconnecting with old friends…but if those old friends are part of the problem, if they were around when you first starting using or have co-binged with you, they may unwittingly re-introduce you to drugs and alcohol. If “the old gang” isn’t on the same road to health and wellness you’re traveling, the temptation to relapse may be more than you anticipate. A simple “I’ll catch up to you after New Year’s” may save you a world of problems. Old friends are wonderful, but some of them can simply be a threat to your sobriety and personal well-being.
  • The Holidays are a wonderful time to reconnect with others and with yourself. With all the temptations of a festive season and a culture where cocktails and recreational drugs abound, it’s also a great opportunity to demonstrate the value of your commitment to yourself and your wellness.

    The team at Recovery Road Medical Center sends very best Holiday wishes for your health, happiness, and the joys of sobriety in The New Year and beyond.