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Tips for staying sober during the festive season

The festive season has been dubbed “the most wonderful time of the year”, but for those in recovery, it can be a challenge, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Our addiction treatment team at Priory Hospital Woking have put together practical tips to help make staying sober easier at this time of year. Remember, it is possible to enjoy yourself while embracing a life of recovery. Take the opportunity to celebrate not only the holiday, but also your new life of sobriety, which is something to be proud of.

Plan each and every day of your holiday season

Make a six-week plan to get you through the holiday period. Organise your days and plan to spend time with friends and family who are supportive of your recovery, while keeping to the latest government guidelines. Make sure you include the few weeks after Christmas in your plan – many who get through Christmas without relapsing become complacent and relapse in January.

Be realistic

It’s important to have a realistic attitude about the potential for anxiety or conflict.  Be realistic about how the season could increase your stress levels, and how you’re going to access the support that you need.

Recognise your triggers

Whether your triggers are stress, frustration, fear, anxiety or depression, or are environmental, like being around certain people and places, stay mindful. The festive season can be busy and stressful, so check in with yourself emotionally and prioritise your self-care.

Create new traditions and replace old patterns

If you’re newly sober, find festive activities that are enjoyable to participate in without having to consume addictive substances or use addictive behaviours. Buy a new board game, try a new restaurant or start a completely new tradition.

Use your support network

Your family, friends and fellowship peers all want you to get through this holiday season clean and sober, so let them help you. Stay in touch with people, either over the phone, over a video chat or face-to-face if possible under the latest COVID-19 restrictions. Make a list of ten people you can call, including your sponsor; keep your list with you at all times and call at least one person a day.

Say NO

Stay away from ‘slippery places’; there is absolutely no reason to attend your former drinking or drug-taking establishments. Be selective of whom you accept invitations from - you’ll know which social groups are appropriate and which ones are not. If you have said ‘yes’ to something but then don’t feel up to it, it’s okay to say you can’t attend. Now you’re sober and are connecting with your gut instincts again, check in with yourself and your peers, and go with that feeling.

Know your limits

Around the holidays, your ‘to-do list’ often becomes even longer and people seem to ask more of you, whether it’s shopping, decorating or cooking. Set realistic expectations for yourself and other people. Also, don’t be afraid to set healthy boundaries and say no.

If you do begin to feel overwhelmed, break the day into manageable sizes; an afternoon, an hour, or five minutes.

Have an exit plan at social events

If you are attending social gatherings in line with the latest government restrictions, plan ahead and take your own non-alcoholic beverages. Have an exit plan in case you start to feel uncomfortable, especially if there are triggers present. Drive your car if you can, have taxi numbers if you can’t, and let people know that you may have to leave early. You do not have to stay in a place if you don’t feel comfortable.

Watch out for hidden alcohol

Some baked goods, like Christmas cake, chocolate and mince pies may contain liquor. Check food labels, ask your host if any of the food may have alcohol, and if you’re not sure, don’t risk it.

Write out a daily gratitude list

The quickest cure to the holiday blues is by putting things in perspective; count your blessings and be grateful for what you have. Expressing thanks or simply giving a compliment has a way of lifting others’ spirits and your own.

Avoid H.A.L.T (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired)

If you’re hungry, get something to eat. If you’re angry, reach out and talk to someone about it. If you’re lonely, attend a meeting or call a peer. If you’re tired, get a good night’s sleep.

Make self-care a priority

Make sure to concentrate on your overall health. By eating properly, getting enough sleep and making time to take care of yourself, you can keep your body and your mind healthy. Don’t forget about regular exercise, and although it’s tempting with so much wonderful food around, don’t indulge to such an excess that you make yourself feel guilty or ill.

Stay away from social media

This holiday season take a break from social media with a digital detox. When on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it’s easy to begin comparing your life to others, which will only feed depression and resentment.

Keep a dry house

Empty your house of alcohol and substances. In the festive season it can feel like alcohol is everywhere, which is why it’s more important than ever to have a safe, substance-free place that you can retreat to. For online gaming and video addiction be mindful of gifts such as the latest games and gaming equipment.

Attend 12-Step fellowship meetings online

Many groups have special meetings during the holidays to share their experience, strength and hope. As a result of COVID-19, most of these will be online this year. Check when meetings are running - in many cases extra meetings are added to offer greater support throughout the holidays, including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year. 

Live one day at a time and enjoy your sobriety

Stay in the moment and live one day at a time. Don’t worry about what happened or what could happen. Enjoy today and celebrate your sobriety.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0800 144 8969 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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