Sober for the Holidays: How to Protect Your Recovery

addiction treatment center on how to stay sober for the holiday

Whether you have one month sober or ten years, it’s important to know that many difficulties can crop up during the holiday season that could jeopardize your recovery. There may be triggers like parties that revolve around alcohol, financial difficulties, or strained family relationships. In addition, you may just be stressed from the typical chaos that comes with holidays – between cooking, cleaning, gift shopping, planning, and more. Regardless of the difficulties you face during the holidays, it’s important to have effective coping skills to deal with these issues. 


While it is completely normal, and even expected, for people in recovery to feel anxious and stress over the holidays, if you don’t know how to protect your recovery, you may become susceptible to relapse. Even though the holidays are meant to be full of celebration and joy, they can also become filled with tension, resentment, and anxiety. Here’s how you can protect your recovery this holiday season. 


Step Up Your Meeting Game


While some meetings might not be held during the holidays, clubhouses typically host marathon meetings – back to back meetings for several hours. Attend a few extra meetings before your holiday festivities. Many people at the meetings will share about their experience with holidays, good and bad. You can learn from these experiences and apply what you learn to this holiday season. 


Going to extra meetings will also help solidify your recovery. After all, meetings are an integral part of many people’s recovery program. They allow you to form connections with other like-minded people who struggle with the same things you struggle with. Stepping up your meeting game will help you deal with the holidays easier and more effectively.


Stay Connected with Sober Support


When the holidays roll around, our schedules become full of celebrations, shopping, cooking, and so much more. As a result, you may not see your sober support as much as usual. However, staying connected is more important than ever during the holiday season. When you are feeling stressed, anxious, or even excited about something, take the time to reach out to a friend in recovery. Staying connected keeps you grounded in your program. In addition, if you begin struggling with something, your sober friends can provide you with emotional support and guidance. You may even be helping someone else out by asking how their holidays are going.


Plan an Escape Route


If needed, it’s okay to limit time with your relatives. It’s also okay to miss out on events that involve a lot of drinking. You don’t have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. If these circumstances occur, it’s important to have a plan. Whether you need to step outside and go for a walk or go to a meeting, make sure you take care of your own needs. 


Create a plan to protect your sobriety during the holidays. Stay aware of what triggers you and what you need to do to care for yourself. You don’t have to sacrifice your own well-being to make others happy. If anything becomes too much to handle, feel empowered to walk away. 


Pay it Forward


There are plenty of volunteer opportunities and ways you can give back during the holiday season. Let’s face it – what feels better than helping someone else get through a difficult time? In addition, helping others is an integral part of many types of recovery programs. It’s difficult to focus on your fears and stressors when you are helping spread holiday cheer. 


Look for ways you can pay it forward this season. Whether it is helping someone in recovery, spending time with a lonely neighbor, or volunteering at a soup kitchen or animal shelter. Giving back will support your recovery and make you look forward to the holidays. It is also a great distraction from things that are bothering you.


Take Care of Yourself


With hefty meals, busy schedules, and elevated stress levels, it becomes easy to neglect your basic needs. However, self-care is a crucial relapse prevention tool. If you want to make the best of the holidays, make sure to take time for yourself. Everyone has a different routine that works best for them, so your self-care may look different from someone else’s.


Healthy eating, restorative sleep, and physical activity are all linked to elevated moods and better emotion regulation. Similarly, basic self-care tools help reduce stress and anxiety. To take your self-care the extra mile, spend some quiet time in reflective meditation. After all, it’s important to nourish the soul, too. When you take care of yourself you will feel better mentally, physically, and spiritually.


Relax and Have Fun


Sobriety isn’t all serious. It’s also about learning how to have fun without using a mood or mind-altering substance. When you use the right coping and relapse prevention tools, the holidays can be exactly what they are supposed to be – a time of joy, giving, and laughter. So, don’t be too hard on yourself this holiday season. Be grateful, spread holiday cheer, and spend time with the people you love. You may be surprised to find that sober holidays are actually the best holidays!


Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.