Can You (Or Your Loved One) Stay Sober Over the Holidays?

Can You (Or Your Loved One) Stay Sober Over the Holidays?

The simple answer is yes. But staying sober over the holidays isn’t always easy.

The holidays are a stressful, emotional time for many people. People who are new to recovery and have made the decision to stop using substances have an increased level of stress. And, in the past, drinking or using drugs helped them to cope with that stress. So now what? How do you cope with the extra stress that the holidays often bring?

People in early recovery can do many things to support this positive change in their life!

Holiday parties can be a stressful event in early recovery.

  • You might want to avoid some of these parties, especially if you know there will be a lot of drinking.
  • You could make a plan to attend the party but have a reason to leave early – and bring your own non-alcoholic drinks!
  • Or go to the party but take a friend with you for support, like an “accountabil-a-buddy” (a term I heard once and loved).

Remember that the holidays can bring up unpleasant thoughts or feelings.

If you had problems such as financial or family stress before the holidays, they will still be there. Do the best you can. It’s OK to cry and feel sad. Reach out to others for support if you are having a hard time. Limit your time with negative people. Decide to focus on gratitude. You are worth it!

Make time for yourself. Find ways to pamper yourself, like taking a bubble bath, reading a good book, watching a movie or listening to music while you take a walk. It’s easy to get lost in the busy season and forget your basic self-care. Try to get good sleep and eat healthy. Skipping meals and not sleeping can increase your risk for relapse.

Don’t take on too much on during this time.

Many people will send out cards, bake more, shop, wrap presents, go to holiday events, etc.  Pick what things you enjoy most and delegate the rest. If finances are tight, think about spending less money on gifts, make your own homemade gifts or give the gift of time. Some examples might be to offer to babysit, clean someone’s house or look up a project on Pinterest. Most of your loved ones would rather you stay sober than receive an expensive gift.

Lastly, make extra time for your recovery program.

  • This is a good time to attend more 12-step meetings and stay in touch with other people in recovery.
  • You might want to consider going to a church service.
  • Read recovery literature – there are a lot of great books out there to support your recovery!
  • Do service work with a Christmas twist, such as going to a nursing home or making blankets for a local homeless shelter.

Wishing you a blessed and sober holiday season!


Shannon Thompson, LMSW, CAADC is a Clinical Social Worker working at the Pine Rest Kalamazoo Clinic. Prior to coming to Pine Rest she worked as an addictions specialist at Gateway in Kalamazoo, Longford Care Unit in Grand Rapids and St. Jude’s Recovery Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Shannon earned her bachelors degree in psychology from Michigan State University. She earned her master’s degree in Social Work and her Graduate Certificate in Drug and Alcohol Abuse from Western Michigan University in 1998.

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