Holidays and special events can be a challenge for those in early recovery. Many traditions and celebrations include the use of alcohol or substances, and this can be difficult to navigate when first leaving treatment or starting the recovery process. Thinking ahead about how to handle holidays and how to include sobriety into events previously associated with substances can help those in recovery live a full and active life without isolation.
Here are some general strategies for reframing holidays and creating successful sober celebrations.
HAVE A PLAN
Having a plan going into any challenging situation is critical to success. This is even more critical to maintaining one’s sobriety. If you are invited to an event that might be a challenge, there are some steps you can take to be proactive in planning to help identify triggers that might lead to relapse. First, try to get as much information as possible about the event: Who is planning to attend? Is alcohol being served? How long will the event last? Where is the location and is the location associated with any previous substance use? Talking with your sponsor or journaling through the details of attending the event may help you feel more in control of the situation and prepared with a plan for maintaining your sobriety.
DEVELOP NEW TRADITIONS
Part of maintaining an active and engaged sober lifestyle involves change. Don’t be afraid to establish new traditions. Assuming holidays or certain family traditions have to be the way they have always been, can derail success. It’s okay to do something different, to change locations, to change who you celebrate with or the amount of time you spend at a specific event. Consider celebrating a difficult holiday by marking something off your “bucket list,” doing some needed self-care or volunteering to help others.
BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE
Those who are supportive of your recovery want to know what you need. So, speak up! Let a close friend know that you need an accountability partner to attend an event with you. Let family and friends know in advance that you won’t be drinking alcohol at the event. Practice honesty and transparency. Trust your intuition. You are the best person to articulate your needs.
ENGAGE AN ACTIVE SOBER COMMUNITY
Isolation can quickly derail sobriety and mental health. Getting out into the community, connecting to others and connecting to activities you enjoy can increase success in recovery. While this has been a challenge during the pandemic, the sober community online is very active and provides many opportunities for involvement and support. Recover Out Loud (ROL) is an active sober community serving Southern Indiana. ROL offers many sober activities and holiday alternatives including the New Year’s Eve “Soberbash.” President and co-founder John Cunningham states, “We have been creating activity and passion for three years now, offering many unique paths of saying yes, finding passion and generating new memories to replace the old ones. We offer our social gatherings, as a means of remaining in motion while harboring connection with others, ourselves and the community.”
After treatment, programming provided by the RCA Alumni Association is available to anyone in recovery, regardless of whether they have attended an RCA treatment facility. Virtual and in-person events are designed to foster sober support, community, education, and the opportunity to volunteer. For a list of events, meetings and activities visit https://recoverycentersofamerica.com/alumni/ or on Facebook at Recovery Centers of America Alumni.
If you or a loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol, call Recovery Centers of America at 1-800-RECOVERY.