Getting Through Christmas With Your Sobriety Intact

While Christmas is marketed as a joyous, jolly and bright time of the year for all (ho ho ho), those of us who have been in addiction recovery for any extended period of time know that there are a few times of the year as triggering as the holiday season. Emotions are heightened, we are bombarded with invitations to a wide variety of holiday-related events and gatherings and many of us face a unique set of stressors – ranging from finding the perfect gift for our loved ones to spending ample time with our dysfunctional families. When all is said and done, it can be extremely difficult to get through Christmas with your sobriety intact. This year, we will face a more unique set of challenges than ever before. With nationwide lockdowns still underway and the added stresses that go hand-in-hand with traveling in the midst of a global pandemic, we will have to continuously navigate new territory as we adapt to the current state of things.

Yes, this Christmas might be a little bit overwhelming. However, it is entirely possible for us to navigate all potential relapse triggers and work through them effectively, staying sober and entering into the new year with a sense of optimism and gratitude.

8 Potential Relapse Triggers
And How to Navigate Them

We have compiled a list of 8 potential Christmas-related relapse triggers and how to effectively overcome them. If you have any additional questions regarding staying sober over the holidays, reach out to us at any point in time. The majority of our staff members have long-term sobriety and extensive firsthand experience when it comes to keeping sobriety intact during the holiday season – they will gladly share their professional insight, ultimately helping you overcome any holiday related-obstacles you might face.

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  1. Financial stress – Financial stress tends to peak during the holiday season. Not only are you required to take an ample amount of vacation time, but there is the added pressure of finding and purchasing gifts for your loved ones, contributing to holiday meals and in some cases, hosting dinners and other social gatherings at your house. Remember that just like everything else in life, financial stability fluctuates. Also remember that you are not obligated to contribute or spend excessive amounts of money on gifts – if you are strapped for cash this year, which many of us are, look into thoughtful, homemade gift ideas. For example, making a picture frame and adding a photograph of friends or family is almost always much more meaningful than an expensive piece of jewelry or clothing.
  2. Traveling home and dealing with a dysfunctional family – Most of us come from at least semi-dysfunctional backgrounds. If returning home this holiday season seems altogether too overwhelming, rain check for next year. If you want to return home, but you know that spending weeks at a time with your immediate family will likely prove to be too much, agree to spending a long weekend and book your return flight in advance. Look into virtual 12-step meetings that you can attend while you’re home visiting with family.
  3. Being away from the 12-step meetings you are used to attending – One of the perks of these strange times is that numerous recovery resources have moved online, and are now available virtually. You don’t have to worry about skipping your home group or looking for new meetings to attend if you are traveling – all you really need is a laptop and internet connection.
  4. The pressure of perfectionism – Perfectionism tends to crop up at this time of year. Cut yourself some slack. This has been a weird, wild and wacky year for everyone, and there is a good chance that the only person putting expectations on you is yourself.
  5. Grappling with feelings of social isolation and loneliness – Because of current travel restrictions and the fact that many sizable social gatherings are disallowed, feelings of social isolation are liable to peak this year. If you start to feel too lonely, video chat with a sober friend, attend a virtual 12-step meeting or have a close and trusted friend over for an intimate movie night.
  6. Constantly being offered alcohol and other chemical substances – If you do still plan on attending holiday parties, there is a good chance that you will be offered an alcoholic beverage. Rehearse what you are going to say in case something along these lines does take place. You don’t need to detail the ins and outs of your sobriety, but you should be prepared with a straightforward statement of some kind. “I don’t drink,” often does the trick.
  7. Managing holiday-related pressures – In addition to perfectionism and the pressure of time spent with family, there are a wide range of other holiday-related pressures that you will probably have to deal with on some level. Rather than bury your head in the sand and wait for the season to pass, jot down a list of things you feel comfortable doing and things that are better avoided. Know your own limitations and honor those limitations.
  8. Reminiscing – Whether you have lost a loved one in recent years, or you are simply reminiscing about time spent with family in light of recent COVID-related restrictions, you might begin to feel slightly nostalgic and forlorn. Call someone up and talk about how you are feeling, and remember – these times are tough for nearly everyone. You are certainly not alone.

Setting and Maintaining Personal Boundaries

One of the best ways to protect your sobriety over Christmas (and the remainder of the holiday season) is by setting and maintaining personal boundaries early on. In order to do so, you must be thoroughly aware of your personal limitations. What can you do safely, and what will put you in a precarious position? For example, you might find that you can spend around three days at home with your parents and siblings before you go absolutely bonkers. If this is the case, commit to spending a long weekend with your family rather than a full week. Maybe your Christmas work party – which you know will take place at some booze-fueled venue, as always – is better avoided entirely. If this is the case, simply let your boss and co-workers know that you don’t feel comfortable putting yourself in the midst of a sizable social gathering this year. Seeing as we are still experiencing COVID-related restrictions and the implementation of guidelines that affects the size of social gatherings, there’s a good chance that no one will bat an eye.

Additionally, remember that “no” is a full sentence. If you’re going to a small gift exchange with several of your closest friends, and the house asks you to stop and pick up several bottles of wine, you can simply say, “Sorry, I can’t do that.” If you find yourself at a family Christmas dinner and your drunk uncle pours you a glass of scotch, you can simply say, “No thanks. I don’t drink.” You don’t need to skirt around the subject or give some big, flagrant excuse – a simple refusal will do just fine.

staying sober through christmas

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At Princeton Detox & Recovery Center, we have developed an admissions process that is simple and straightforward. We believe that an effective level of clinical care should be readily available to all those who need it. If you or someone you love has been suffering at the hands of a substance abuse disorder of any severity, there is no better time to seek professional treatment than around the holiday season. Recovery truly is the best gift you can give yourself and those you love. There is nothing quite as meaningful or fulfilling as being present with your loved ones.

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    As soon as you give our treatment advisors a call, they will conduct a brief pre-assessment geared towards helping us determine which of our offered detox and recovery services best suit you and your personalized needs. We then offer a free, no obligation health insurance benefit check. At Princeton Detox & Recovery Center, we work closely with most major regional and national health insurance providers, making quality clinical care as accessible as possible. If you are currently insured, there is a good chance that some or all of our services will be covered either partially or in full. Next, we set to work developing viable travel plans and setting a date in a time for intake. For more information or to begin your personal journey of recovery give us a call today at (833) 653-3869, we are available to help you 24/7.