During this celebratory time of year, decorations, family visits, office parties, activities with friends, gift exchanges, entertaining with special meals, and other exciting aspects all contribute to joyous occasions. Unfortunately, some people also experience stress, depression, loneliness, and anxiety, often prompting increased substance and alcohol use. So how can you plan a festive—but sober!—holiday season? We have some ideas that may help.
Manage Your Expectations
The Mayo Clinic notes that “whenever something is important, extra attention is paid to it, and you want to become involved to take part. This also means that you carry expectations influenced by your memories, desires and environment.”
Additionally, we all have a tendency to try to create the most perfect experience possible. However, Mayo states that “often, events out of your control—finances, travel plans, past and present relationships, health, and current events—interfere with your vision of the perfect holiday season. This can lead to stress and unhappiness.”
Here’s what the organization suggests you do instead, which we provide verbatim:
- Take a few moments to write down your anticipated expenses, a budget for gifts, travel and special holiday traditions. Set aside funds for those unforeseen expenses and stick to your budget. Remember that overspending now invariably leads to regret and difficulty later.
- The thought behind the gift is more important than the cost of the gift. Consider baking a treat or offering your talents or time to your loved ones.
- Holiday travel often is complicated. Speak with your loved ones about what you and your family can realistically do for your schedule. Allow yourself time for travel, and prioritize events as you are able.
- Prioritize your mental health during the holiday season. This can mean saying “no” or setting boundaries. Give yourself permission to decline things that do not serve you.
- Emotions come and go, so allow yourself to feel them freely. Practice healthy coping skills, such as meditation, deep breathing or exercise, to assist your mood and prevent relapse.
Remember, enjoying your sober self during the holidays means allowing for a certain amount of grace. This time isn’t about perfection but about discovering joy and togetherness with people you care about and making lasting memories.
Rely on Your Sobriety Resources
Whether you participate in some form of mutual support program like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, or you’re a client of Willingway and take advantage of our continuing care community groups, your sober network is essential during the holiday season. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
- Keep a list of support numbers. Just in case you need additional assistance, it’s comforting to have contacts ready to help, whether for a short text or a deeper conversation.
- Be a resource for others, too. Any time is a good opportunity to encourage someone else’s sobriety journey, but you may find that other individuals need a little extra support this time of year, too. If you have the capacity to help, you may buoy each other’s spirits.
- Host a gathering of people close to you. Arrange for a casual get together of individuals who mean a lot to you, especially those who understand and reinforce your path of recovery. Maybe it’s just a group meeting for coffee, or a special lunch, or a walk in the park. When you’re all assembled, express gratitude for their support and how much it means to you.
Shift Your Perspective
Traditions are essential to the human experience. In an article for PsychAlive, clinical psychologist Donna Rockwell states that “our traditions act as a compass for all of our human relationships and personal interactions, the qualitative experiences of our family life, and ultimately, the development of civilized societies themselves.”
However, especially during the holiday season, there are some traditions you’ll be able to keep, while others will need to be modified—especially if you’re in recovery, family dynamics have changed, or you live healthier than others around you.
So if it’s time to embrace new ways of celebrating each holiday, do it with gusto! Here are some ideas to create stronger connections and enhance sober fun.
- Adopt a family in need through a local charity, and have family members and friends take part.
- Create a “Twelve Days” fitness theme by participating in different physical activities.
- Try a multicultural approach: select a country and research how its citizens celebrate the holiday season and respectfully experiment with their special foods and other customs.
- Plan a post-holiday breakfast party and invite people you didn’t see during the rush of the season.
- Craft photo ornaments of people you care about to use on a holiday tree, as a table centerpiece, or as a festive garland.
- Do something completely off-the-wall, such as getting friends and family together in matching pajamas and going out for a holiday brunch.
- Use a virtual party app to watch classic holiday movies with people near and far.
- Host a singular food event that requires each guest to bring their take on the item—such as chili, macaroni and cheese, hot chocolate, soup, chocolate cake, BBQ, and so on—and the recipe to share with others.
- Invite friends and family members to create cards for other groups, such as children in hospitals or active military members.
For more ideas on creating a happy and sober holiday season, please review these articles:
- Tips for Sober Socializing
- Reaffirming Your Faith During the Holidays
- Planning a Sober New Year’s Eve
- Talking to Your Relatives About Your Addiction
- Finding Peace During Family Gatherings
- Don’t Let Your Loved One’s Addiction Ruin the Holidays
Learn the Recovery Skills You Need at Willingway
Any time of year is the perfect opportunity to focus on your health and wellness. The board-certified addiction treatment professionals at Willingway’s Georgia and Florida locations understand this and have dedicated more than 50 years to helping you and your family thrive in recovery. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need guidance and support.