Steps to Stay Sober During the Holidays
Written ByDreamLife Recovery
The holidays are, usually, a time to rejoice. Many holidays, especially Thanksgiving, feature food, festivities, and drinking. But just because that’s the way things have always been, doesn’t mean they can’t change. Achieving sobriety is a long journey, so the holiday season is the perfect opportunity to celebrate your hard work rather than throwing it away with some casual Thanksgiving drinking.
There are steps you can take to ensure that you get through the holidays with your sobriety intact, without sacrificing any of the fun. By surrounding yourself with a dedicated support system and being prepared for every event you head into, you’ll finally have time to really enjoy the holiday season and all it entails.
What is Blackout Wednesday?
Binge drinking is very popular during the holidays, and the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving is a prime example. Earning the nickname “Blackout Wednesday” or “Drinksgiving” this night is known as one of the biggest binge drinking nights of the entire year.
One reason for this is that it’s the official start of the holiday season. College students are home from school for Thanksgiving and Blackout Wednesday is the perfect opportunity for them to reunite with hometown friends and of course, drink.
Also, many people are off from work Thanksgiving Day and those that are going to the bars the night before typically are not the ones cooking the turkey. In fact, it is one of the busiest nights for restaurants and bars—even busier than New Year’s Eve. Bars have noticed this trend and cater to their audience with waived cover charges, festive bar activities, and drink specials. This comes with many dangers, especially when you factor in the increased level of cars on the road and, ultimately, drunk driving.
Ways to Avoid Thanksgiving Drinking
It’s not just the celebratory nature of Thanksgiving and the holiday season that drives people to binge drink. It’s also the overall stress of the holiday; the anxiety of being around family, the loneliness of not having a family to be surrounded by, and much more. It’s a time that you are around friends and family that you haven’t seen in a while which may very well stir up negative memories and intensified emotions. However, there are absolutely ways to avoid the pitfalls of Thanksgiving drinking.
If you have a support system, you’re going to want to utilize them. It will really help to surround yourself with others who are also sober. Have them accompany you to events, or if that’s not possible, have them on speed dial in case you need help removing yourself from any uncomfortable situations. If you trust the host of said gathering enough, you can give them a heads up that you may need to leave quickly and quietly if you are no longer comfortable, and that they shouldn’t take offense. If they care about you, they will respect that and help you in any way they can.
While the holiday parties may be fun, they can be a less than ideal situation for you, no matter how long you’ve been sober. Try participating in activities with friends and family that don’t necessarily involve Thanksgiving drinking, such as decorating, baking desserts, or just going for a walk around the neighborhood and taking in the scenery. There are plenty of fun activities that aren’t associated with drinking.
Here Are Some Tips on How to Stay Sober:
• Plan Ahead – Be sure to take your own vehicle to holiday functions so that you can leave as soon as you are ready to. A good rule of thumb is to arrive early and leave early, and bring a sober friend with you for support if possible.
• Know Your Limits and Avoid Triggers – If you have certain family members or friends that automatically cause you stress, be sure to limit your time around them. you don’t have to say es to everything, so only agree to do what you’re comfortable with, for as long as you want to.
• Prepare Your Props – As soon as you get to an event, grab a nonalcoholic beverage and make sure to have one in your hand as long as you’re there. This will prevent people from handing you drinks or getting you to try something new. And realistically, people don’t typically take notice of what’s in your cup.
• Create New Traditions – Thanksgiving drinking doesn’t have to be a tradition. Take time to sit and reflect on everything you have to be grateful for. Start a new tradition of helping those that are closest to you, as well as strangers. Whether this involves baking cookies for your friends, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or helping with a support group, by taking the focus off of yourself, you will get to feel the gratitude of giving back to those around you.
What if You Relapse During the Holidays?
If you happen to participate in some Thanksgiving drinking, there are certain steps you can take to get yourself back on track. First things first, don’t hide it. By hiding your relapse, you are giving into shame, which should not be the case. Facing relapse by yourself can be lonely and only make matters worse. Being honest with yourself and others around you allows you the opportunity to get the help and support that you need at that time.
The definition of relapse can be different for every person. It’s important to establish what exactly it means to you. One person could view it as having a sip of an alcoholic drink, while another person could define relapse as a weekend of binge drinking. By choosing your own definition, you are creating healthy boundaries. The more comfortable you get with your sobriety, you can always reassess these boundaries, but it’s important to begin with a solid foundation.
If you feel you feel yourself on the verge of relapse, reach out to your sponsor or someone in your support system for help. They can help you avoid triggers and get you into a treatment program if that is what you choose to do.
The holidays are a stressful time, but it’s important to see the silver linings of every situation. By avoiding triggers, planning in advance, and asking for the help you need, you can fully enjoy both your sobriety and the holiday season.