Celebrate Recovery: Navigate Holiday Stress With These 21 Tips To Avoid Relapse In Early Recovery

The holiday season doesn’t have to be a threat to your life in recovery. It’s a stressful time of year for everyone, but it can be much more difficult in early recovery.  But now is not the time for relapse or to fall back into old routines, faulty coping mechanisms or embarrassing yourself in front of family or friends.

Here is a list to get you through the stress, parties, and celebrations during the holiday season.

21 quick tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays

1. Be ready to address your sobriety- Create a respectful response when asked to drink or drug

When asked if you want a drink to decide if you wish to disclose that you are in recovery or just say you don’t feel like drinking today. When you let others know that you are in recovery, it can stop unwanted peer pressure to drink. Family and close friends who might not already know you quit drinking.

2. Remind yourself why staying sober is important to you.

Start each morning and take time to reflect why staying sober is important to you. What goals have you already achieved in early recovery like waking up sober, being more present at work home school or in your loved one's life?

3. Choose holiday parties wisely.

You don’t have to go to every party your invited too. If you feel a party is a dangerous don’t go. The host will understand.

4. Plan an escape route.

If you cannot get out of a family or work celebration, create a plan to leave.  Know how you are getting to the event, who you are going with and remind your ride that you might need to leave the party early if you feel uncomfortable.

5. Stay away from slippery places.

The season is about giving and gratitude. So stay away from the holiday parties that you know will be more of an excuse to get drunk or drug. These parties will be full of temptation and discomfort. Parties in old drug using neighborhoods or in bars that you use to frequent should be avoided in early recovery.

6. Be careful of overeating

During the early stages of recovery, maintaining proper nutrition is hugely important. Talk to experts with real-life experience to provide nutritional knowledge, hands-on skill building, and firm guidance to lay a new foundation for a lifetime of true wellness. Overeating leads to negative feelings and regret. To much food makes you sluggish and will create faulty thinking. Don't mindlessly eat because you are worried, scared, or craving.

7. Spend time with people who support your recovery.

Attend holiday functions at sober living homes, go out to coffee or meetings with your recovery coach or the inpatient treatment center you attended.  Got to more meetings, try new meetings, at SMART Recovery.

8. Start new traditions.

A recent blog post about how to utilize your recovery coach during the holidays spoke of creating new traditions, you can read it here. Invite new friends and connections in recovery.  If you have not been invited anywhere, do the asking yourself.

9. Exercise.

No better time than now to start working out, walking, running, or doing yoga. Treat yourself to a gym membership and force yourself to go. Get the adrenaline pumping and release endorphins naturally. The high you feel from moving is so much more invigorating than those produced through chemical means. Feel good about you. Plus exercise will help you eat smarter and keep those extra holiday pounds from piling on.

10. Remember the spirit of gratitude and giving.

If you don’t already start each day with gratitude, then there is no better time. When you wake over thanks to your higher power or just feel the happiness inside of you because you woke without a hangover, knowing you didn’t drink or drug the night before, or in the early stages of opiate withdrawal.

Show your gratitude by outwardwardly expressing it to others. Write holiday cards thanking others for their love and support through the years. Show your wife, husband, children, friend recovery coach, and sober companions how much they all mean to you. Don’t just send the card write a note thanking them for all the little things each of them does each day that make you succeed, endure, and thrive in recovery.

11. Surround Yourself with People Who Support Your Recovery

Attend parties and celebrations with others in recovery. Spend more time with your sober coach and sponsor. Keep people who value you sober and alive in the moment closely. Celebrate the joy of life with those feeling not suppressing the moments of peace and happiness.

12. Go early Leave early

Plan, plan, and plan so more. Know when the party starts and show up early. Express your joy and gratitude to be part of the celebration and then leave before the wine and cocaine start flowing. Get yourself far from temptation and triggers. Build bridges that lead to safety.

13. Talk to your Recovery Coach

Take time and plan the next few weeks with your coach. What could happen during this time to sabotage your recovery and set you up for a relapse. Think about and prepare a plan for active early recovery during these next two weeks

14 Give Back

If you are not going to be traveling alone for the holidays, ask you sober coach where you might be of service to the recovery community or helping others have a fantastic holiday season too. Give the gift of recovery to others in your recovery community

15. Be Honest with Yourself

Take some time to make the holidays about you and your recovery. Renew your commitment to recovery. Are you doing your best to change, dispute irrational thought and eradicate dangerous behaviors from your life or are you sidestepping around the parts which cause discomfort or stress? Get honest about your program and committed making the changes you need to arrive in 2019 with a new plan for recovery.

16. Spirituality

Winter the time of rebirth, life , and spiritual connection. Spend time with your higher power, take a walk outside, and connect with the beauty of nature. The wintertime provides such quiet outdoor places to walk quietly with you your higher power. Get inside your heart and connect with the fire inside that pushes you to do better each new day.

17. Take One Day at a Time

There isn’t a better time than now to start practicing living one day at a time than the holidays. Take it to step by day, hour by hour if you have too. Stress, uncertainty, and can make regrets, and self-doubt swells up inside of you and can catch you off guard. Practice being present in the moment. Get through each day until January 2nd and smile proudly for navigating the holidays with precision. You got this.

18. Put your recovery first

Start every day with recovery. Gratitude, a reading, a phone call to your recovery coach, exercise, walk, 2 huge glasses of cold water, or all of the above. Do something to help cement your faith in recovery and the newest and best version of you 4.0. Make new habits for recovery that you enjoy and do them when you first wake-up. Start adding your recovery to your morning routine. Create a system for recovery to follow each day.

19. Read recovery literature

There are so many great books about recovery. Start reading them. The moments you spend reading about recovery strengthen your foundation. AA’s big book is not all that is out there anymore. Tod Doge, a recovery coach for The Lighthouse suggests to all his clients to familiarize themselves with the first 164 ages of the big book.

So many great books to read.  Buy yourself a early holiday present and head to Self-help recovery section at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.  

For starters Check out:

Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier Dr. Robert Emmons

Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction Maia Szalavitz

Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions Russell Brand

20. Attend recovery based activities.

Head to inpatient treatments centers, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and give yourself to others. Add new meetings to attend with your sober support network. Try going to a new meetings twice a week to build a larger network for support.

If movies are you thing head to the movies with your sober support network or family. This season you will find some great movies which address addiction and recovery. Be part of the movement to reduce the stigma surrounding our recovery community,

21. Avoid H.A.L.T. – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired

All systems are checked. A pilot never leaves the tarmac without completing an in-depth systems check of the inside and outside of the place. His ability to thoroughly review the plane before take off and keeping his eye on the gauges during the flight ensure the passengers will arrive at their destination safely.

Your responsibility to your recovery is to check your system regularly. Do a HALT check. Are you hungry, angry, lonely or tired? Not only is it essential to avoid the winter depression, holiday stress, but you must stay consistent in providing your body and mind what it needs to enjoy life in long-term recovery


22. Build a plan for Relapse Prevention

Don’t let the stress during the holidays cause the freshness and joy you feel for your new life to slip away. Create a plan to follow every day, list of phone numbers, surround yourself with others in recovery, and continuously check your surroundings and feelings. Build a program that will keep you far from relapse.

You can use all or some of these tips to make it January 2nd, 2019 safely and comfortably in recovery. Addiction took away all your care and concern for others, so let the holidays be your gift to yourself. Learn to stay connected to the new habits and people that help you stand up proud about being who you are.

You can THRIVE in Early Recovery. Use these tips to navigate the tumultuous waters of the holidays and arrive on the shores of the new year happy, sober, and committed to a new year in recovery.

There is hope for you or a loved one struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs. The Lighthouse can help you transition into sober living and recovery coaching. Our admissions staff will assist you in finding the resources you need to connect with The Lighthouse or the proper placement needed to begin your journey of recovery.

Reach out to us and get started today.

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John Makohen