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Navigating the Festive Season: Staying Sober During the Holidays

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Written by Guest Blogger: Fletcher Tingle III

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness. However, for people like me in recovery or those choosing to live a sober lifestyle, staying sober duirng the holidays can pose unique challenges. The prevalence of social gatherings, family expectations, and cultural traditions centered around alcohol can make it difficult to maintain sobriety. Despite these challenges, it is entirely possible to not only stay sober but also to fully embrace and enjoy the festive season. Buckle in and get ready explore my tips and strategies for navigating the holidays while staying true to your commitment to sobriety. 

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1. During the holiday season, it's crucial to surround yourself with supportive individuals who understand and respect your decision to stay sober.

Whether it's close friends, family members, or fellow individuals in recovery, having a strong support network can provide the encouragement and understanding you need to navigate social situations. This can be as easy as your spouse keeping an eye on you, and knowing when to intervene in a conversation, situation, or provides space for you to disappear for a moment to clear your head. I’ve got a close group of sober-minded friends that are on the lookout for the “Bat Signal” text – a simple red telephone emoji. Which, upon receipt, they will drop everything and get on the phone with me. I keep watch for their bat signals too, and always ready to make that phone call. 

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2. Before attending any holiday event, it can be helpful to have a plan in place.

This might involve knowing your triggers, identifying potential challenges, and establishing an exit strategy if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. My husband and I share a safety-signal that alerts the other if we need rescuing or it’s time to leave. I clutch my chest like grandma clutches her pearls, bring up the Pineapple Upside Down Cake that we have waiting for us at home. Our Scottish Terrier, Jockey, is also a frequent excuse, if he isn’t present with us at the party. 

Many holiday gatherings revolve around alcohol, but that doesn't mean you can't partake in the festivities.

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3. Embrace the wide array of non-alcoholic beverages available, such as sparkling water, mocktails, or festive virgin cocktails.

Bringing your own non-alcoholic drink to a gathering ensures that you have something enjoyable to sip on and to have in your hand to make every effort to avoid alcohol. When offered a drink, or pressured into one, navigating saying “no” is next to impossible, especially with people who do not understand your position. I laugh it off, politely decline, cheers them with my lemon-lime seltzer and carry on. If needed, my polite “no, thank you” turns direct and firm, without the. smile or laugh. This method usually makes the situation a tad awkward, but quickly forgotten.

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4. With alcohol being the center of attention at most holiday functions, it’s important to look for the other activities.

Are those new ornaments on the tree? Is that a cousin I haven’t seen in years? Does mom need help in the kitchen? Suddenly, the kids table is far more enjoyable than it has been in years – oh, the stories I now know about my crazed uncle. Kids say the darnedest things, and they’ll tell you just about whatever you want to ask. 

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5. The holiday season can be demanding, so it's essential to prioritize self-care.

This might involve setting aside time for relaxation, meditation, exercise, or engaging in activities that promote mental and emotional well-being. By taking care of yourself, you'll be better equipped to handle any challenges that arise. Listen to yourself, acknowledge your feelings of stress and anxiety. Remind yourself often that these feelings are temporary, and you are in control.

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6. After many fraught years of dreading the holidays, I’m here to tell you it's okay to communicate your boundaries to friends and family members.

Let them know in advance that you are committed to sobriety and that you would appreciate their support in ensuring a comfortable and alcohol-free environment for you. Your sobriety doesn’t need to take the focus from the party.

self care journal

7. The end of the year, through all of the holidays, is an opportune time to reflect on the things for which you are grateful.

Consider keeping a gratitude journal or taking a few moments each day to acknowledge the positive aspects of your life. Focusing on gratitude can help shift your perspective and reinforce your commitment to sobriety.

Remember, staying sober during the holidays is an achievement to be proud of. It's an opportunity to create new, meaningful traditions and to experience the season through a fresh lens. By prioritizing self-care, seeking support, and embracing alternative ways to celebrate, you can navigate the festive season with confidence and grace. Ultimately, staying sober during the holidays allows you to fully savor the moments of connection, warmth, and joy that this special time of year brings. 

1. Embrace Support Systems

2. Plan Ahead, know your out strategy

3. Focus on Non-Alcoholic Alternatives

4. Engage in Meaningful Activities

5. Practice Self-Care

6. Communicate Boundaries

7. Reflect on Gratitude

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