It’s that time of year again. Twinkling lights are everywhere, shopping madness is in full swing, and for the next few weeks it’s all about food, fun, and family. But while the Christmas carols may talk about this being the most wonderful time of the year, for those in recovery, balancing holiday stress and sobriety can be a difficult task. Here are three tips for making this holiday season a bit less stressful and a little more sober.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can feel like an endless whirl of social obligations, and alcohol is a major component in many of these. While you probably can’t—and wouldn’t want to even if you could—avoid every social gathering, don’t be afraid to say no. If you feel the temptation might be too much, or even if you’re just feeling a bit fragile and stressed out, respond to invitations with a polite “I can’t.” And when you do accept an invitation to a function that may include alcohol, limit your time there. Arrive late and leave early.
Holiday stress and sobriety may make uneasy bedfellows, and there may come a point at any social gathering when you best option is to leave—right now. In that case, planning ahead can make all the difference in the world. Have an exit strategy ready when you walk in the door—plan out what you’ll say and do if you need to leave in a hurry before you get there so you don’t have to create an excuse on the fly. If you’re comfortable doing so, you might simply let your host know that temptation is making you uncomfortable. But if you’re not, having an appointment you can’t miss, a child to pick up from a friend’s house, or any other plausible reason for leaving can help avoid embarrassment and hard feelings.
The easiest way to resist temptation, of course, is to avoid it in the first place, and the ideal situation is one where you can make or bring your own drink. However, since that’s often impossible, you may need to be extra-vigilant. Even if you’re drinking plain Coca-cola or sparkling water, a well-meaning friend, waiter, or other person may top up your glass with alcohol. So keep your drink in your hand. Pay attention as your drink is prepared–even the best bartender or server can make a mistake. And if you must leave your drink unattended (to go to the bathroom, for instance), don’t pick it back up. Order a fresh one instead.