Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Survival Guide

*** This is a repost of the "Thanksgiving Survival Guide" we posted last year - it applies to any holiday, so we thought we'd rename it and post it again, as we cruise into the thick of the holiday season.

Holidays can be difficult for sober people, or people struggling to get or stay sober.

Now is a good time to prepare.

We thought we'd share some tips. You can not only survive the holidays, you can enjoy them. All you need to do is plan ahead. Please add your own in the comments below; this is by no means a comprehensive list:
  • Think ahead. Is it hard for you to be around alcohol? Be honest with yourself. Now is not a time for heroics. Keep your expectations realistic: if it is going to be too difficult, maybe this year is a time to do something different this year. Don't set yourself up to fail. You can spend a quiet time at home watching movies or hanging out with other friends, volunteer at a shelter serving food, or go to a meeting instead.

  • Holidays are usually about family. If there are people in your family who trigger you, be ready. You don't have to go to every fight you're invited to .. plan what you'll say or do if someone gives you a hard time.

  • Have safe people to call - program their numbers into your phone in advance, and tell them you're going to call if things get tough. If everyone around you is drinking and it starts to bring you down, talking to someone else who is sober helps you remember that you are NOT alone.

  • Bring your own beverages. This is especially important if you're going to be around people who don't know you're sober. If you always have a drink in your hand, people won't hand you alcohol or ask if you want something to drink.

  • You don't have to over explain. If someone is pressuring you to drink, be ready with an answer. A white lie is totally acceptable - tell people you're on antibiotics, or you're watching your calories and so you aren't drinking.

  • Have an escape plan. If you can, bring your own car. Plan to go for a post-turkey walk - fresh air and exercise will get your endorphins flowing and help tamp down cravings.

  • Plan your exit in advance. If everyone is going to settle in and drink and you don't want to be part of it ... don't. Tell whoever is hosting that you have to leave at a certain time so you don't get drawn in to staying longer than you want to.

  • Remember to be proud of yourself - shame and guilt are huge triggers. Give yourself credit for staying strong.

  • Think about the next morning, when you'll wake up hangover-free and rested. Think about how horribly you felt the morning after drinking, and how sober you don't wake up and think, "I wish I drank last night."

  • Think through the drink. If you start romancing how nice "one drink" would be, remember how many times you told yourself you were only going to have one and failed. Having one is harder than having none, because once alcohol is in your system the obsession comes alive.

  • Remind yourself the holidays don't last forever, and each holiday is a simple 24 hours, just like any other day. Don't put more importance on this day over any other.

  • Go to bed. If the day is harder than you expected, go to bed early just to put the day to rest. Tomorrow is a new day.

  • Believe in yourself. Getting sober and staying sober takes serious guts - you are brave and strong and true. If guilt, shame and remorse start talking to you, remind yourself that it's your disease sneaking in the back door. Let your sober voice ring loud and proud in your head.

  • Forgive yourself for wanting to drink. Don't expect that you won't be hit with a craving; it's natural. Prepare for how you're going to handle the craving instead of berating yourself for having one.

  • Be grateful.  Make a gratitude list and carry it with you. Try to focus on the gifts you have in your life, all the possibilities that lie in front of you, instead of all the things you can't have. Sober, you can do anything.

Please add more thoughts and ideas in the comments; we want to hear from you. Addiction thrives in the dark, and together we bring the light.

You are not alone.


  1. Believe it or not there are meetings on the holidays. In fact they were some of the best meetings I've been to. I have a friend who invites anyone from her home group to an open house on xmas eve.

  2. Really good point, Karen!

    Many areas have "alkathons", which are round-the-clock meetings - usually starting around 6pm on Christmas Eve and going through 6pm Christmas Day. The same is true for New Year's Eve.

    Some of the most amazing meetings I've ever been to have been at Alkathons.


  3. All you're going through, Ellie, and you're still giving your best advice :) I'm new to all this, but picking up that Redbook was a are you! Hang in there girl!

  4. I was at a party recently and was having seltzer with lime. Someone asked what I was drinking and I told them and they said "oh, are you doing a cleanse?" so apparently there's another line you could use...

  5. A little humor can help. I tell people who try to get me to drink that I met my quota in the old millennium. It is pretty effective. I hope it is thought-provoking, too, that maybe I'm providing an example to those who might be wondering if they should quit, if they can. I try to stay positive, think of the challenges as opportunities to take my recovery show on the road.