With the festive season being pretty well known for social gatherings, staff parties and family dinners, you might be thinking about how you can safeguard your sobriety and still have a good time!
Whether you’re newly sober or have been for years, the holidays can be a bit more stressful than usual to handle. You might be faced with people you have not seen for a while or be invited to places that trigger past habits. Here are a few tips that will make the upcoming season seem less daunting and more appealing.
- Make a list
Game night anyone? Make a list of activities that don’t involve drinking or using substances, and can still get you into the holiday spirit. These can include activities like baking, decorating, volunteering or even hosting your own alcohol/drug free party. Starting new traditions can make the festive season more meaningful and re-ignite the excitement for upcoming years.
- Surround yourself with supportive people
Whether it’s a colleague, a friend, a neighbour or a family member, it’s crucial to have someone you can rely on during this season. Make an effort to keep in contact with those who show you support throughout the year, as they will surely be glad to continue supporting you during the festive season.
- Rethink your words
Dr Richard Soper, an addiction medicine specialist, points out that it might be wise to re-evaluate the words you use to describe your journey. It is best to avoid phrases that stigmatise or devalue you. For example, you can swap out “I have to be strong”, which may imply that you are currently not strong, and instead tell yourself “I must stay in the present”, in order to remind yourself to take it one day at a time.
- Choose events wisely
Realistically, we might all get invited to more events than we can handle in one month. However, the holidays are a time often spent with family or friends, so saying no to every party invitation might not be the best idea. Try and evaluate whether a party is worth going to or not by asking yourself if the people present would still be gathered together without drugs or alcohol. If the answer is no, then it might not offer much quality time with friends and might be best to avoid. Remind yourself that your sobriety is worth more than a few hours of partying.
- Be prepared
When you do decide to attend a party, be prepared. Whether you disclose that you are in recovery or not is up to you, but practicing your answer for when someone offers you a drink can ease stress in social situations and allow you to be more confident. A simple, ‘no thanks, I’ll just have a kinnie’ works just fine.
It is also important to have an exit plan if you start getting overwhelmed. Having a trustworthy friend who can be honest with you if you’re getting yourself into risk is a good option. If you’re going alone, make sure you have your own car nearby or a taxi service number saved for easy access.
No matter how you decide to spend the festive season, remember to celebrate your recovery and your sobriety. Believe in yourself and all that you have achieved, surround yourself with positivity and never be afraid to ask for support during challenging moments.
Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta. She has worked with children and adolescents within the social sector and currently works as a Triage Officer and Chat Bar Coordinator within Willingness Team. Michaela aims to further her studies locally by pursuing a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy in the near future.