Staying Sober Through The Holidays

Any way you slice it, the holidays are a weird time for everyone. There can be an immense feeling of pressure, and for many of us in recovery, quite a bit of anxiety. So through all the dinners and gifts and holiday parties, what can we do to stay sober during the holidays?

First of all, Congratulations

I want to start this blog out by first congratulating you on your sobriety. It is by no easy feat that you have made it here, and if you have doubted for any second your ability to do this, I want you to realize how far you have already come from something like inpatient treatment in Colorado.

So when the chaos and the noise and the painful holiday memories start to come up, remember how far you have come here, and if for nothing else, try to find some gratitude in that. 

Why are these holidays so weird?

Before my parents split up, I always remember absolutely loving this holiday season. Everything was perfect every year, we were all together, there was always a tree, and it was the one time of year my dad was actually around. After they split, and my sister and I had to decide which parent we wanted to spend the day with, things started to feel very transactional and forced. 

As I got older, I realized just how stressful this time of year can be for people. There is an immense pressure to “get it all perfect”. It can be a lot. Then there are the painful memories and awkward family situations that pop up for people this time of year, such as:

  • A loved one who has passed away
  • Getting drunk at family parties and making a fool of ourselves
  • Not having a family to spend the day with (a blessing and a curse?)
  • Uncomfortable family dynamics
  • A family member who is still in active addiction

The list goes on, and whichever flavor suits your personal holiday season, the feeling can be pretty intense, especially now that we aren’t getting drunk and high to numb it. 

staying sober through holidays

So apart from society’s expectations to get everyone the perfect gift or to have that picturesque holiday scene that we see in movies or on social media if all you do this holiday season is manage to stay sober, know that you’re doing enough. 

So, how to do it

To make a long story short, in order to stay sober during the holidays, keep it simple, and keep doing what you’ve been doing. Here is what I mean:

  • Call your Sponsor – whether you go home for the holidays or stay where you are, you should continue keeping frequent contact with your sponsor and your sober support network. Whether you need them or they need you doesn’t matter, but just take the time to make those phone calls and check-in. 

If someone you haven’t spoken to in a little while pops into your head, give them a call, you never know if they are popping into your head for a good reason. 

  • Work with Others – If you are sponsoring or are just now getting into the steps, continue doing this throughout the season. Both phases of our sobriety give us the opportunity to be of service and to work with others. 

During the holiday season, don’t you think everyone would be a little bit more jolly if they took the time to sit down with another human and share some truth and vulnerability? It might make the parking lot at the mall a much more patient place. 

  • Pray and Meditate – Traveling anywhere for the holidays can put a real wrench into your daily routine, but it doesn’t need to be permanent. Whether you stay home or go away for this holiday season, a surefire way to stay sober is to continue the daily practice you have been using. Whether that means a cup of coffee with spiritual literature in the morning or a tenth step inventory at night – keep doing what you’ve been doing. 
  • Go to MeetingsIf you are staying in your own home for the holidays, continue going to your homegroup and other favorite meetings. If you are traveling, find some meetings wherever you land. This can actually be extremely rewarding and fun. If you have only been to meetings where you got sober, it can be super cool to see how meetings are run in other places. It is also always a cool experience to be humbled and grateful when you realize that overall, AA and NA are the same programs, no matter where you are and that everyone all over the world gets sober in more or less the same way that you did. 
  • Celebrate with Sober folksGo to the sober holiday parties, go to the dinners and the coffee dates and the potluck meetings. Do it all. Celebrate your recovery, and celebrate the holiday season with others. Whether you visit with family or stay home, the whole month can be spent celebrating everything the holiday season is meant for:
    • Family (whether it’s by blood or the one you choose)
    • Gratitude
    • Goodwill towards all
    • Community
  • Service Service Service – With everyone getting all wrapped up in gift-giving, it can be extremely refreshing to take some time to do some service work. This could mean anything from picking up an extra commitment at a meeting, to volunteering at a shelter, to helping out with a charity. It can be easy to get swept away with the holiday shopping and all of our own little wants and desires, so taking some time out of our day to be of service to those around us can quickly put us back into a state of humility and gratitude.

The holidays don’t have to be a time of anxiety and romanticizing relapse for us. If we spend our days focused on our program, focused on how we can help others, and focused on our gratitude for our sobriety, we can begin to make all new holiday memories and shape them however we want.