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By Nathan Bailey, MA, LPC

If you are newly in recovery and looking ahead at your calendar,  you might be concerned about getting through the next month of celebration(s) without alcohol. Aside from the traditions that might likely involve toasts or the meals/social events often accompanied with alcoholic beverages, the holidays can bring stress, painful memories, grief and a change to well-defined routines. It might seem an impossible feat to remain sober during this time of year, let alone have a rewarding and joyful time, but it is possible! Here’s 6 ways to thrive in your recovery during this holiday season.

1. Plan for what you can

It’s not possible to script out weeks of your life down to the smallest detail, but thinking through what’s likely to occur over the next few weeks can help you prepare. Have you already been invited to a few parties? Do your high school friends meet at a bar to catch up? Will you be spending time with family? Have you tried different approaches to this season in the past that didn’t work? What could you do differently? Taking the time to think these things through will give you an advantage in maintaining your change process.

2. Maximize fun and minimize risk

It will be important to play defense (protecting yourself from situations that could be overwhelming) but remember your offense! Be sure to find fun, meaningful activities. Spend time with the people that you have a great connection with. Try something new you’ve always wanted to try. Yes, you may need to avoid situations that in the past were enjoyable (but you’ve since realized are unhealthy), however, it’s just as important to add good stuff back into the mix. 

3. Re-think traditions

Just because you’ve always done it “this” way doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it the same way. I’m not just talking about incorporating alcohol either. If you find yourself dreading certain holiday traditions, you get to choose to what extent you will participate. As an independent adult, you can set boundaries that are needed for you. Traditions can be a link to treasured memories, they can also serve as a reminder of toxic behavior. Identify which ones you’d like to honor and which ones you’d like to re-invent.

4. Don’t underestimate the challenges

There’s a saying that goes something like “if you hang around a barbershop long enough, eventually you’ll get a haircut.” Some people will feel like you need to go into situations that could be tempting for you because that’s what is expected of you. Or you might feel awkward not going because of what people might think. Just know that being at events or special circumstances where there’s alcohol being served can be a significant challenge to your sobriety even if you have friends and family around.

5. Get support

There’s a number of things you can do to boost your support during the holidays. If you’re involved in 12-step, consider going to extra meetings. If you’ve never tried, now might be a good time to test the waters. Meetings run every day (even holidays). Be honest with those close to you in letting them know if you’re struggling. If you go to an event that could be trying, ask someone to stay nearby and redirect you, hold you accountable to the boundaries you’ve set in place. It’s OK to need help, this doesn’t make you “weak” it makes you strong.

6. Keep the routine (do what works, don’t hit pause)

There are many special events that occur between Thanksgiving and New Years. It’s easy to get distracted from our routine which in turn can take us away from the consistency that has helped our recovery. Make it a priority to do the things you need to do. Don’t compromise the foundation of your recovery and self care. If your participation in events or celebrations needs to flex around your healthy routine…that’s OK!

Let us help

Lime Tree Counseling provides counseling that helps you be the best version of yourself. We offer addiction therapy, PTSD counseling, anxiety counseling, Christian counseling and more. Our office is in Ambler, PA and we also provide online counseling in Colorado, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Reach out and set up your first appointment today. We wish you a healthy, happy holiday season!