Staying Sober During the Winter Holidays

The winter holiday season is here! People are decorating, putting up lights, wrapping gifts, cooking and baking special holiday treats, and, of course, they are also attending many holiday parties and celebrations. Spending time with family and friends makes it such a wonderful time of the year. However, if it’s your first holiday season in recovery, you might be feeling some anxieties. How will you handle all the holiday parties and celebrations given that the consumption of alcohol and cannabis are so prevalent in Canadian culture? Rather than getting caught up in this fear, try to look at things in a more positive way—this is an opportunity for you to celebrate your sobriety and set an example for others!

Enjoying the Holidays Sober Will Give You Positive Experiences

If you’re very newly in recovery and don’t feel you have the fortitude to resist such temptation, than make the healthy choice and stay at home, or attend holiday festivities that don’t involve alcohol or cannabis. Alternatively, if you are confident in your ability to abstain and you have a good support system, then go out and enjoy yourself! Experiencing the holidays sober will give you new experiences that will help you develop an understanding of life in recovery. Especially if you have gone through many holiday seasons full of the shame and chaos of addiction and substance abuse, your first sober holiday season will be very rewarding for you and your family.

Plan and Take Precautions to Minimize Your Risk of Relapse

How you enjoy the holidays is your personal choice, but always ensure that you put your recovery first. The following are some precautions you can take if you are in early recovery and plan on attending parties or celebrations during the holidays:

  • Consider completely avoiding events where you expect you will be exposed to very strong triggers.
  • Arrive early: this will allow you to spend time with the host before things get too busy and hectic.
  • Leave early: decide ahead and make a commitment to leave at a reasonable hour.
  • Bring a sober friend: having someone to keep you accountable and who can support you is incredibly helpful.
  • Schedule a phone call for sometime during the party with a person who is supportive of your recovery.
  • Ensure that you have (or can arrange) your own transportation so that you can leave whenever you want.

Know What to Do When You Feel Triggered

If at any point you feel triggered, try the following:

  • Take a break and change your environment: go outside for a walk and get some fresh air to clear your mind.
  • Practice gratitude: focus on all the positive things that recovery brings to your life.
  • Call someone who is supportive of your recovery.
  • If you are still struggling, then it’s time to leave the triggering environment.

If you are in early recovery this holiday season, it can also help to attend more support groups than you usually do and to maintain active participation in your aftercare program.

Spend the Holidays with EHN Canada!

If you are currently struggling with addiction, EHN Canada offers inpatient treatment programs, which include many fun and festive holiday events throughout the month of December. If you think you might need help sustaining your recovery during the holidays, EHN Canada also offers outpatient and aftercare programs. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

  • 1-800-387-6198 for Bellwood treatment center in Toronto, ON
  • 1-800-683-0111 for Edgewood treatment center in Nanaimo, BC
  • 1-888-488-2611 for Clinique Nouveau Depart in Montreal, QC
  • 1-888-767-3955 for Whiterock treatment center in Surrey, BC

Futher Reading

You can find a more in-depth discussion regarding relapse triggers and strategies for staying sober at parties in our Halloween article.

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