15 Tips to Avoid Relapse During the Festive Season

Many of us in recovery dread the holiday season. It’s the season for social gatherings and festivities, and the festivities are often accompanied by alcohol and drugs. “How can I still have fun without my drug or drink of choice?” is a question many of us asked when approaching the festive season, especially in early recovery. We’ve put together some great tips that we know will help.

A bit of anxiety and fear, around these holiday triggers is not necessarily a bad thing. They help keep us on our toes – and it’s 100% our responsibility to keep ourselves safe. Sobriety has to be our top priority and we need to be very careful and selective about which events we will attend. If it’s going to be a big bash with everyone over-indulging, it’s just not going to work – and we need to be realistic about that.

Festive sobriety in recovery

It’s okay to say NO. By constantly saying yes to everything, one can feel resentment and further stress. But if you choose carefully which events you feel safe about, you will also avoid resentment in the other direction. This is where a good sponsor can really help. They’ve done this a time or two before and can really help guide you on what is okay and what should be avoided at all costs.

The MOST important thing is to make sure you can get out quickly and easily. You need to have your own transport, or someone you can 100% trust to take you home if you are feeling uncomfortable.

Preparation is key! It’s important to put plans in place to safeguard your sobriety. One always needs to remain mindful of triggers when in recovery. This is even more evident during the holiday season.

While there are several helpful tips that may help you change your mindset and approach, it’s also vital to have some practical tools at your disposal to help you navigate the festive season, while remaining sober.

And if you’re struggling, please remember that our team at The Cedars is NOT going on holiday – and we’re here to support and help. Our 24/7 emergency line is 081 860 9578 and all our contact details are here: https://thecedars.co.za/contact/

Some Helpful Tips:

  1. Maintain a solid support system of healthy friends, family and people in recovery. Reach out to someone in the program or a sponsor if you feel anxious or triggered.

  2. Keep up with your daily affirmations and try put time aside once a week to do your step work – working with a sponsor or friend in recovery is important.

  3. Participate in healthy outdoor activities. Take up running, go to a yoga class, the gym or go hiking with a group of sober friends. Even taking your dog for a walk, helps to clear your mind and stay in the present. It’s more important than ever to stay in the present and be mindful – enjoy every moment of the day.

  4. Schedule in and attend as many NA and/or AA meetings as possible during this period. Reach out to a sponsor. If you are visiting family in a different city, check out the meeting schedule beforehand and schedule in meetings that side. Being away from your regular recovery support system can make you especially vulnerable to relapse.

  5. Make a list of things you enjoy doing without partaking in alcohol and drugs – baking, decorating the Christmas tree, outdoor activities.

  6. Don’t always feel obligated to spend time with people who are not good for your mental health. If there are family members or people that are especially toxic or triggering, say no or turn down invitations if you are able to do so. It’s not always possible, but be mindful to put your sanity and sobriety first. Know your limits with certain family members.

  7. Be selective with the events you choose to go to. If you do go out to social functions, take a “support buddy” with you to keep you grounded and avoid inclinations to get “festive”. Make sure you take your own car or have your own transport option so that you can leave immediately if you are feeling uncomfortable or in a precarious situation. If you are with someone, it’s great to have a secret word between you that you can use to indicate that you need to leave.

  8. You don’t always need to give people an in-depth answer of why you don’t drink. If you feel comfortable enough, tell people you are in recovery. Alternatively, you can say you don’t drink for health reasons. Use a non-alcoholic drink as a prop – when people are drunk, they’ll hardly notice it’s a sparkling water and not a glass of champagne.

  9. Address your potential emotional triggers before time, such as: having lost a loved one over the holidays, coming out of a painful relationship or complicated family dynamics.

  10. Focus on Self Care – take care of your body, mind and soul. Eat healthy foods, meditate, do yoga.

  11. Acts of service: When we take the focus off ourselves and focus on those less fortunate, it gives us a purpose. There are various ways you can do service within your community. Get involved in charity work: volunteer at a soup kitchen or your local animal shelter.

  12. Spring Cleaning: Clear out all the clutter in your house – throw out old clothes or things you no longer need and donate them to charity. Giving to the less fortunate will fill up your heart and clearing out old things from your old life when you were actively using, will create a shift and bring renewed energy into your life.

  13. Create new traditions. Organize a holiday feast with your sober friends.

  14. Maintain your spiritual connection to source.

  15. Focus on the positive. Celebrate the healthy, happy relationships in your life and open yourself to meet other like-minded people during the holidays.