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Tips for staying sober through the holidays

Staying sober for recovering addicts through the holiday season can tax the best of us. That is why it is important to have a plan in place when, and if the stresses become to much to handle.

White House Christmas tree being delivered
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

There are a variety of reasons a person in recovery might relapse, and people partying is a big one. Another is the holiday season can evoke negative feelings for the addict he may have experienced earlier in his life. Family dysfunction such as divorce, abusive parents, other family members having abused drugs that caused chaos in the household, and boatload of other stresses have all conspired to move us in the direction of a relapse.

Remembering your childhood, and traumatic experiences you may have had in the past can come back to haunt you at any time, and especially throughout the holiday season.

Here are some tips to help you stay sober through what may be a difficult time for those in recovery, and even those that are not.

Practice and remember these tips:

  • Plan Ahead - Stay clear of the bar areas. Get a non-alcoholic beverage, talk to friends, and keep a glass that is refreshed, that way a guest or friend will be less likely to get you a refill with real alcohol in it.
  • Know How to Say No - No one has to know that you are an alcoholic, and can't drink. Just be firm if anyone asks if you would like a drink. Tell them no, I'm the designated driver, or no, I've decided not to drink tonight. No one can force you drink. Don't feel like you have to appease someone by taking a drink, or drug for that matter.
  • Avoid Triggers - Triggers are situations, places, or things that cause you to think about drinking, or drugging. Having extra money in your pocket is a trigger for many addicts. If you used to get together with the guys at superbowl parties, and the six-packs flowed like water, it would be a good idea to avoid those kinds of situations. In recovery, your sobriety comes first. Everything after that is a bonus if you stay clean.
  • Use Buddy System - Take a friend along that has a lot of clean time bebind them. Have your sponsor's phone number handy, and use it if necessary. If you don't want nayone to know you are calling an NA or AA sponsor while at the party, duck outside or use the bathroom to make the call. There were times when you would use the bathroom to get high in. You can also use it to stay sober in as well.
  • Be Designated Driver - Volunteering to be the designated driver speaks for itself.
  • Focus on Why You Quit Drinking in the First Place - The reason you are in this situation of not being able to have a drink should be foremost on your mind. When the temptations ambush you, focus on why you stopped using. It can bring reality right back to the forefront. Use consequential thinking by imagining what would happen if you took that drink, then another, then another. You're now lit up like a Christmas tree, and drinking again. Next day, same thing. Now you're back at it, and the problems are back, fights with the wife, or family, missing work, out all night, then getting pulled over for drunk driving and going to jail, or worse yet, getting in an accident, and killing someone, including yourself. Think it through. Doing this is often a good way to talk yourself out of relapsing.
  • Opt for Medication - You may opt for medication assisted treatment to control the urge to drink, like Antabuse, which will make you sick if you do drink. Other med's on the market are available as well like acamprosate calcium, (Campral).
  • Have a Backup Plan - As with all plans, or goals, you should have a backup just in case the one you laid out isn't effective. Having a network of people you can contact in case things go awry is important. As long as any situation you are in is not life-threatening, in which case 911 would be the answer, having people you can count on while you are in recovery is extremely important. Battling addiction, and staying in recovery is hard enough, but doing it alone is next to impossible. (Above excerpted from an article by Lisa Fields from WebMD).

Having a plan to deal with the stresses you are likely to encounter throughout the holiday season, as well as other times will provide you with the coping skills to assist in staying sober, and avoiding a trip back to the relapse chamber where you might not make it out of again.

Remember, for those that do drink, don't drive. The county jails are packed during the holidays, and it ain't pretty. Neither is the criminal record you will acquire if busted.

Have a safe and happy holiday season.


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"One person dies every 19 minutes from a drug overdose in the United States and that trend is being driven by prescription (Rx) painkillers." (

If you or a loved one needs help with any type of drug abuse/addiction problem, contact these sites depending on where you live. SEMCA (Wayne County residents), CARE (Macomb County residents), PACE (Oakland County residents), Drug Free Detroit (City of Detroit residents). For those residing outside the State of Michigan, contact SAMHSA for assistance. For assistance with medical marijuana issues contact The Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, Michigan Medical Marijuana Certification Center, or, phone number: (313) 967-9999, or (248) 677-2888.

Substance abuse and mental health treatment locator here: SAMSHA

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