Holiday celebrations are filled with triggers and temptations for those in recovery

by Lindsey Salvatelli
Rosecrance Health Network

CHAMPAIGN - It’s that time of the year when gift-giving, family gatherings, and cheers for the new year bring people together. Though it is perfectly normal to enjoy celebrations that are common around this time of year, the holidays can also be challenging for those in or new to recovery.

The holiday season is usually packed with social events, but this can cause people in recovery to feel lonely or anxious about the possibility of relapsing. For those who may have those concerns, it’s important they know that they are not alone - millions of Americans who are in recovery are also spending their holidays sober.

Although some individuals may have more experience staying sober than others, everyone needs to start somewhere. Those ready to have a safe, sober holiday should join the festivities with a plan.

During recovery, it is crucial to have a strong support network that includes 12-step meetings, sponsors, treatment centers, and loved ones, especially during the holidays. Individuals can benefit from having a list of AA or NA meetings ready and predetermined check-in calls with a sponsor or loved one to stay on track. Doing so can help establish the lifeline they need to step away from stressful social situations that could put their recovery in harm's way.

Planning how to get to holiday celebrations is crucial. Individuals need to have control over their transportation to leave quickly if needed. For those who don't have access to a vehicle, bringing a plus one who can support their recovery and be the designated sober driver can be beneficial. In an emergency, having a commuter app or a friend on speed dial who can help escape the situation can also be helpful.

Another helpful tip to prevent a relapse is to always have a non-alcoholic drink in hand. Holding a drink means there is less opportunity to be offered one, more control over what is being consumed, and avoiding a potentially awkward conversation about sobriety.

Though holiday celebrations can indeed be filled with relapse triggers and temptations, that doesn't mean that people in recovery should avoid enjoying these celebrations altogether. Spending the holidays with loved ones, free from any substances or alcohol, is worth a try. Still, it’s understandable if those new to recovery think they should avoid holiday celebrations.

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