Maintaining Sobriety This Holiday Season
According to a survey by the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) in New York, 10% of all Adults in America are in recovery from substance abuse and/or addiction. It is important to note that these numbers may in fact be much greater due to the anonymity of 12 Step recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. What’s important to note, is that If you are in recovery, you are not alone. Millions of Americans have made the same wise decision to remove drugs and alcohol from their life. The journey to sobriety is tough but worth it.
Even so, The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates the relapse rates for drug addiction to be as high as 40%-60%. They also found that the risk of relapse is highest during the holidays. The season ahead, therefore, marks one of the most challenging times for people in recovery. The stress of travel, parties, free alcohol, and the presence of old friends make the temptation to use markedly stronger during the holidays.
Additionally, the holiday season can be rooted in unresolved family problems. These act like a lingering ember with the potential to reignite fights and disputes that have yet to be addressed or resolved. In treatment, this is often referred to as Family of Origin issues.
These Family of Origins issues can become relapse triggers for many people with substance use disorders if not identified and addressed. As we move into the Holiday Season we are bombarded with images of idyllic childhood memories via advertisements and Holiday movies. Unfortunately, for many who grew up in a dysfunctional family system where alcohol and other drug use was a problem, these images are the complete opposite of what was experienced. Feelings of anger, guilt and disappointment are a big challenge at this time of year.
That is why many recovery self-help programs offer 24/7 meetings during the major Holidays and encourage members to stay with their “tribe” and learn healthier ways to celebrate. For many, relapse prevention needs to include an exploration of family of origin history and how to begin healing from the traumatic incidents that remain embedded in bodies and minds. With awareness of the problem as the first step towards resolution, healing is possible.
Below are five tips (the S.O.B.E.R strategy) to help you walk out of the holidays with your sobriety intact.
S, Share: Share with close friends and family that you are in recovery. When attending parties, be sure to bring a sober friend who knows you are in recovery. This way, you will have someone to help you overcome the temptation to use. The support of friends and family is crucial to the recovery process.
O, Omit: You do not have to attend all the parties thrown during this holiday season. Assess the nature of the invitations and avoid those where the main agenda is to “get wasted.” Replace them with sober parties or alternative seasonal activities. Also consider participating in communal holiday activities with local churches and spiritual centers. Check out the opportunities to volunteer for those in need. This will give you with a greater sense of gratitude and fulfillment knowing you are giving back.
B, Be Prepared: If you find that you must attend a party where alcohol and/or drugs are available, be prepared. Make plans in advance and strategize how to come out of the party with your sobriety intact. Bring your own drinks just in case the party has only alcoholic beverages. Another idea is never to let go of your drink. It may be spiked, accidentally or intentionally, plus no one will offer you a drink when you have a drink in your hand.
E, Enjoy: You have made the right decision. Do not beat yourself up over being sober. The holidays usually cause people to second guess their choices because you think everyone is having such a great time. Remind yourself why you are in recovery. Picture a future where you are sober and contrast it with your past in addiction and abuse. DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO DOUBT YOUR DECISION!
It is possible to celebrate and have a good time while in recovery. Be sober, but have a blast while you are at it. Even old friends will respect your decision not to drink if they realize that you are having as good a time as they even without using. If you walk around looking gloomy with a bottle of diet coke, you can be sure a well-meaning friend will come to the rescue with some shots of tequila.
R, Repeat: The S.O.B.E.R strategy should be applied on a daily basis. Take the holidays one day at a time. Celebrate every day that dawns with your sobriety intact. One last thing is that you do not have to explain yourself. Do not engage people in the reasons why you are not drinking, let a simple “not today” suffice.
Happy holidays, and stay sober – one day at a time.
Related article: Enjoying the Holidays with Chronic Pain.