Scripps Health: Tips for staying sober during the Holidays

By Sandra Boller-Bilbrey, Scripps Health

The holidays are a time of celebration, filled with family get-togethers, social events and gift exchanges. For those recovering from alcohol problems, however, the season may make refusing alcohol and staying sober more challenging than usual.

In addition to the abundance of alcohol, people in recovery may feel more depressed or lonely during the holidays. Even if they are in a good place now, memories of past holidays spent drinking too much, fighting with family members or sitting alone in a dark room can come flooding back.

If you or someone you love is in recovery, the following tips can reduce the stress of the holidays and help you or your loved one stay strong and sober while still enjoying the season.

  1. Stay connected. Make going to 12-step meetings a priority, even when you are really busy and feel you don’t have time. Put meetings on your schedule and plan other activities around them.
  2. Acknowledge past mistakes and painful memories, and give yourself credit for moving forward. Again, staying connected with others who share similar experiences and are now sober can provide valuable support for everyone.
  3. Choose your activities wisely. You don’t have to attend every party or event you’re invited to. Everyone is busy during the holidays, and people will understand if you have another obligation or can only stop by for a short time.
  4. Get involved. Volunteer for a community organization, tackle a project you’ve been putting off or offer to help a friend or family member for an afternoon. When your mind and body are active and engaged, you’re unlikely to think about drinking.
  5. Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. When you feel good and are well-rested, you are more likely to stick to your resolve and make smarter decisions—which only makes you feel even better about yourself.
  6. If you’re going to an event where alcohol will be served, bring a friend or family member with you for support. He or she can keep your glass filled with non-alcoholic beverages, help you resist temptation and be your excuse if you need to leave suddenly.
  7. Be prepared. If you know the host of a party well enough, ask if there will be non-alcoholic beverages available, or simply bring your own. If you feel pressured to explain why you are not drinking alcohol, you can say that you have to drive, do some work, or need to wake up early in the morning. But really, you don’t have to justify your choice of beverage to anyone.
  8. Avoid even the smallest temptation. If there’s a toast, fill your glass with sparkling water or juice. You’ve worked too hard to get where you are – don’t risk it for a sip of champagne or wine.
  9. Plan celebrations with sober friends. Many 12-step groups have holiday events. Invite your fellow members over for dinner or a potluck.
  10. Be thankful — for your recovery, your support group, and everything else that has helped you get and stay sober. Let those who have helped you know how much you appreciate them. Remember, your recovery is one of the best gifts you can give your family.

Sandra Boller-Bilbrey is director, Scripps Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program. “To Your Health” is brought to you by the physicians and staff of Scripps. For more information or to make an appointment, please call 1-800-SCRIPPS.