For most people, the holidays are about spending time with family, being loved, and having fun. But, if you’re a recovering alcoholic, facing the holiday season can be significantly more challenging. If you’re alone and preparing to face Christmas and New Year’s without your family and friends, it can be even more daunting.
But, just because you’re on your own doesn’t mean you have to relapse. You should expect to be tempted or even triggered, nearly everyone will be drinking, but you’re still in control of what you do. With a little planning and preparation, you can ensure that you’re ready to face the holidays alone, stay sober, and hopefully have a little fun at the same time.
You Don’t Need Alcohol to Have a Good Time
Most of us grow up with the kind of insinuation that alcohol is a necessary part of a party. Most of us have childhood memories of watching parents drink, often too much and grew up waiting to sneak alcohol into teen parties. It’s just ‘what you do’. But, while it’s socially normal to drink to have fun, it’s not a necessary part of it.
In fact, there are plenty of ways to have fun over the holidays without ever touching a drop of alcohol:
Attend a Sober Party – Most AA and sobriety groups host some form of sober party over Christmas and New Year’s. If you’re out of town, you can ask to join one as a guest and explain your situation. If you’re at home, you can ask around and attend one thrown by your local group, or throw one yourself. If you plan a sober party yourself, you do have to plan activities like games or TV, plan food, and, of course, non-alcoholic beverages.
Go for a Hike or Walk – Exercise and activity not only help you to pass time, they can also be fun and they can help you to feel better. Exercise releases serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which can make you happier, reduce cravings, and boost your energy. If it’s too cold out for a walk or hike, you can do plenty of things indoors like yoga, roller skating, ice skating, indoor skiing, and much more. Try to bring a friend if you can.
Find Something You Like to Do – If you can’t spend time with people you know and love around the holidays, you can entertain yourself with things you like to do. Just be cautious of spending too much time alone or tiring yourself out, which can trigger HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) which act as triggers for addiction.
Go to a Sobriety Meeting
Going to AA or another sobriety meeting might not sound like your idea of a good time, but it does get you out, around people who are going through the same things as you, and into a situation where you can talk about your feelings without judgement. Going to AA on Christmas and New Year’s will also put you in the right frame of mind, so you remember why you’re staying sober and have something to hold yourself accountable to.
If you’re away from friends and family for business or travel reasons, find a group in your area before you travel, try to contact or email them in advance, and attend as a guest.
Most of us like the holidays because we get to give to others, you can still do that even if your family and friends are gone. Volunteering your time is a rewarding and positive thing to do, even if it’s just for a few hours. Some of the Christmas and New Year’s volunteering opportunities involve soup kitchens, working in domestic shelters, handing out food and blankets, or donating your specific skills and time to the needy. You should not typically volunteer around recovering addicts who might still have alcohol, primarily because you might slip up if tempted.
Volunteering actually releases serotonin and dopamine in the brain, giving you a rush of happiness, and reducing cravings. Plus, you’ll be doing something good with your time, and you can be proud of yourself and what you’re doing. If you’re attending an afterparty or are in an area where alcohol might be served, you should discuss your history with the manager or the group before starting, and ask them to be courteous and not offer you alcohol.