Staying Sober During the Holidays

An image of two girls Staying Sober During the Holidays
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By: Renaissance Recovery

Clinically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated:


Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

For those in recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs, staying sober during the holidays can be challenging. By planning ahead, you can approach the holidays with your recovery uppermost in mind.

If you are new to sobriety during the holidays, you might be wondering how you will navigate the coming weeks. If you are already in recovery, you might already be aware of seasonal stressors that you need to avoid or manage rather than relapsing at this difficult time of year.

Whether you find the constant flow of alcohol throughout this period is your primary concern, or you struggle to cope with seasonal expectations and family dynamics without substance abuse, today’s guide includes five actionable tips to stay sober during the holidays.

How to Stay Sober During the Holidays

Whatever stage of your recovery journey you are at, keep these tips in mind to streamline staying sober this year.

  1. Plan to protect your recovery during the holidays
  2. Identify your personal addiction triggers and respect your limits
  3. Practice gratitude throughout the holidays
  4. Stick to your routine as much as practical
  5. Focus sharply on self-care

1) Plan to protect your recovery during the holidays

Planning ahead for the holidays and recovery can help you to avoid or mitigate potentially uncomfortable situations.

Use this framework to create a customized holiday sobriety plan:

  • Minimize the time you spend around difficult people.
  • Limit exposure to situations you find stressful.
  • Attend peer support group meetings if appropriate.
  • Plan to speak with your sponsor or to meet them face-to-face.
  • Invite a sober friend to tag along if you feel you will be the only sober person at the party.
  • Organize your own transportation.
  • Prepare to refuse offers of alcohol or other drugs firmly and politely.
  • Do not allow triggers to surprise you – more on this directly below.
  • Formulate an escape plan for the worst scenario where you feel in danger of relapsing.

2) Identify your personal addiction triggers and respect your limits

During psychotherapy and counseling sessions at rehab, you will discover what triggers you to use addictive substances. You should also learn to develop healthier coping strategies.

Consider the following potential triggers that could crop up this winter:

  • A dysfunctional family dinner.
  • Family conflicts.
  • People push you to “Just have one drink!”
  • Confronting ex partners at annual gatherings.
  • Financial stress related to the holiday season.

If you feel that any of these situations might derail your sobriety, avoid those situations if at all possible.

In those situations where non-attendance is impractical, ensure that you identify all your personal triggers and make certain to formulate premeditated coping mechanisms so you are not caught unawares this holiday season.

3) Practice gratitude throughout the holidays

If you find yourself becoming bogged down over the holidays, take a moment to practice gratitude and to remind yourself of why you started this journey to sobriety.

Practicing gratitude doesn’t need to be time-consuming. Write down three things you are grateful for each morning. Try to vary your expressions of gratitude.

You can also foster gratitude by helping others. If you become consumed by your thoughts over the holiday period, ease your mind by helping others in need. You might consider:

  • Volunteering your time or services with a local organization in need of help during the holiday season.
  • Chairing a recovery meeting.
  • Cooking a meal for the homeless.
  • Telling your recovery story.

Taking the time to focus on embracing and spreading positive energy should help to fill you with a sense of satisfaction not trepidation this holiday season.

4) Stick to your routine as much as practical

Routine helps to eliminate uncertainty and the unknown, meaning your CNS (central nervous system) is well-regulated rather than hyper-vigilant and hyper-alert.

Typically, the holiday period is studded with one-off events and annual activities that are not part of your normal routine. That said, you can still structure the bulk of your time around a regular routine.

  • Wake and sleep at roughly the same time each day.
  • Take a walk or some light exercise early in the morning.
  • Practice gratitude for a few minutes daily.
  • Exercise for at least thirty minutes each day.
  • Eat lots of whole foods and few processed foods at regular mealtimes.

The more you can stick to your schedule over the holidays, the more comfortable and confident you will feel in your recovery.

5) Focus sharply on self-care

The holidays present the opportunity to take a break from the daily norm. use this time to focus on self-care, such as:

  • Long soaks in the bath.
  • Walking in wide open spaces.
  • Yoga.
  • Meditation.
  • Mindfulness.
  • Invigorating swims.
  • Messages.
  • Reading.
  • Journaling.
  • Eating well.
  • Resting and recuperating.
An image of people Staying Sober During the Holidays

Sober Holidays

Reframe your sober holidays as a gift rather than a burden and begin the new year in the finest shape rather than recovering from substance abuse.

You should also keep things in perspective if you are edgy about the looming party season. Like everything, the holidays are a time-limited event that will soon pass.

Those in the early stages of addiction recovery should not feel guilty about missing out on potentially triggering events. If you are not confident of remaining sober in any given scenario, it is advisable to sit it out this year. Your closest loved ones will understand why you feel unable to attend.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep uppermost in mind throughout the holidays is that it is not selfish to prioritize your recovery. If this means skipping a few events this year, that’s a minor sacrifice set against the benefits of staying sober this holiday season.

Addiction Recovery at Renaissance Recovery

Perhaps the most effective long-term strategy for staying sober is to first create a solid foundation for ongoing sobriety. We can help you achieve this at Renaissance Recovery Center in Orange County.

If you feel that residential rehab is too restrictive or too expensive, engage with one of our evidence-based outpatient programs instead. We provide the following treatment programs for addictions to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit narcotics:

Regardless of the level of treatment intensity that is most appropriate for your needs, you can take advantage of a personalized array of holistic interventions and evidence-based therapies, such as:

At Renaissance, we will help you to stay sober by connecting you with:

  • Appropriate aftercare for your needs.
  • Relapse management strategies.
  • Renaissance Recovery alumni program.

Take the first step toward sustained sobriety by calling 866.330.9449 before the holiday season gets underway.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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