It is still November and the holiday season seems to be creeping in earlier and earlier. The invites are out for holiday parties and our calendars are starting to fill up already. Anxiety is increasing, and depression is on the horizon. Even if you are someone who loves the holiday season (which I am absolutely guilty of), it can be tough. Even if you are not sober and simply trying to live a healthy lifestyle, it can be tough. Even if you have the best family and friends in the world and your financial situation is perfect (does that exist?) and your holiday movie marathon has already begun, it can be tough.
The holidays are a very difficult time for most people. We overspend, overeat, and definitely over-drink.
At a time where overconsumption is so high, how can we ensure that we don’t get high ourselves?
My first sober holiday season was rough. I was triggered constantly, tired of explaining why I wasn’t drinking and single and not going to law school anymore and all of the things that the holidays bring up. I did, however, not only make it through the holidays, I actually had a really wonderful time. I didn’t make a total fool of myself, I remembered all of it and I was able to really and truly, for the first time, appreciate the gifts I have every day in my life.
This will be my fifth sober holiday (!) and I can now honestly say it is one of my favorite times of the year. I am no longer too hungover to get up on Christmas morning and having to chug mimosas to settle my anxiety and get through the day. I don’t embarrass myself or my family anymore. I can show up and continue to show others that recovery is possible.
Here are some tips that helped me during my first sober holiday season (and still help me out a few years later):
1. Maintain and amplify your routine
What do your morning and evening routines look like? Routine is an imperative part of recovery and changing old habits. Do you have daily readings you do? Meditation? Prayer? Do you walk your dog? Exercise? Whatever your routines and rituals are that keep you healthy on a day-to-day basis, maintain them. Then ramp them up. Take more baths. Use more oils. Schedule more therapy appointments if that is an option for you, journal morning and night. Stay as consistently connected to yourself as you can. This is SO important throughout a stressful or seemingly routine-less period. I will re-iterate: routine is crucial for recovery.
2. Navigating the drinking culture
A huge part of early recovery for me was to ensure that I always had a drink in my hand and that I always got drinks for myself. The last thing you want is to accidentally drink a vodka soda rather than your perrier with lemon. This also will mitigate the number of people who will (inevitably) ask you if you’d like a drink or ask you why you aren’t drinking.
With that, remember your sobriety is nobody else’s business if you don’t want it to be. If you want to tell everyone you aren’t drinking, totally cool. If you don’t, totally cool. Ensure you have something that works for you prepared so you don’t feel caught off guard by the questioning.
3. Pick up the phone
Call a friend, partner, sponsor if that’s your thing or message someone in a recovery Facebook group and call or message them on a regular basis. This always helps keep me honest and accountable. That connection is pertinent for survival and can help remove the isolation we can feel so easily. Connecting with someone who knows you and what it’s like to be sober is a beautiful part of recovery.
4. Ground yourself
In the car, before you leave your house, or sometime before entering into the party or gathering, ground yourself in the moment. Notice your breath and say your favorite prayer or mantra that helps bring you into the moment. Imagine a protective bubble is energetically being placed around you. Those family members who are going to nag you about being 30 and single? Fuck ‘em. You’ve got this. Always come back to your breath.
5. Help someone else
In every situation you go into, ask yourself how you can be of use in the situation. Is that helping your grandmother down the stairs or sitting with your grandfather while he watches tv and keeping him company? Helping your sister with the dishes? Do something for someone else.
Getting out of ourselves and into service instantly switches us into appreciation mode and allows us to be of use in our world. Showing up with this energy can ensure we are distracted from chaos and putting our sobriety to good use. It can help give us a purpose while being in a potentially uncomfortable situation. When you get asked for the millionth time what is new with you, put the conversation back on them.
Feeling helpful is one of the beautiful gifts of sobriety, as I can guarantee I was not very useful when I was drinking and thinking I was the life of the party (I mean, I was sometimes though).
Feeling useful has been key for me.
As always, stay grateful.
Write gratitude lists every day. Be grateful for the sober, grounded version of yourself you are bringing into the world. When feeling particularly crummy and engulfed by self-pity, pause and list 10 things that you are grateful for in that moment. I guarantee you by the fifth your thinking and attitude will begin to shift. This doesn’t mean to pretend some shitty things aren’t happening, but it can put what is really important to you in perspective rather than getting bogged down by our thoughts.
Honesty is the absolute cornerstone to living an authentic life. We are then able to live in our truth, be in touch with what we really need and learn how to get those needs met. If one situation or party is particularly difficult, be honest with yourself and get curious about what was coming up for you. What was particularly challenging about it? Was there a triggering family member there? Was it the alcohol itself? Maybe it is not feeling “apart of” anymore, (that was a big one for me). Use the situation or emotion arising as an opportunity to get to know yourself better. If you are afraid of drinking at a gathering, I always found it beneficial to make sure one person there that I felt safe with knew I wasn’t drinking. It helped me maintain accountability.
8. Have an exit plan
Ask yourself, how can I be most loving towards myself in this situation? If that is leaving, do it. Protect yourself. Protect your sobriety and your sanity and get yourself home and safe if you need to. There is no shame in protecting yourself. Ever. If people have a problem with you leaving, it has nothing to do with you. Ensure your phone is charged to call your ride or uber or make sure you have a vehicle accessible. Have some sort of plan in place, just in case.
That is also to say that if you need to protect yourself by NOT putting yourself in compromising situations, always do what is best for you and your recovery. Your mental, physical and emotional health come first.
All of this being said, really do try and enjoy the season. Even if the overconsumption and consumerism and all of those wonderfully conflicting aspects of our world seem like WAY too much, try and stay grateful for what you have, for how far you’ve come (if you are even questioning how to get through the holidays sober you have made so much positive movement in your life and I am proud of you) and for the ability to show up for yourself and your loved ones.
As always, reach out to me if you’d like support in any way. You’ve got this and I am here for you.
Happy Holidays, friends!