Unfortunately, those of us in recovery may have a lot of added stressors on top of dealing with a heavy drinking season. It’s winter, a time that can already be difficult for mental health. Buying gifts may put some in financial stress. The prospect of seeing one’s family can cause its own anxiety. But during COVID-19, many could face a holiday season spent alone.
Keeping yourself safe this holiday season means sticking to both COVID-19 protocols and your recovery. You can stay sober for the holidays.
If you will be around people who drink, make sure to keep stocked on your favorite non-alcoholic beverages. It is always helpful to have a drink to hold so you’re not the only one empty-handed. Look for a seasonally appropriate drink; it can feel like you’re not part of the festivities if everyone is drinking eggnog and you’re holding a boring glass of water. Try something like cider, hot chocolate, or a holiday-themed (non-alcoholic) seltzer if you can find it.
Make sure to prioritize your recovery. This means having an exit plan in case you feel worried about drinking or using. Even if you’re only celebrating amongst your household due to COVID-19, you can always retreat to your room if necessary; you might plan what you’ll say so the prospect of leaving doesn’t seem as daunting.
If you do need to leave—or if you’re spending the holidays alone in the first place—you can still connect to friends or family; try not to isolate during this hard time. Plan video calls in advance, especially if there is a particular holiday you find most difficult. You might also pick a sober (or otherwise supportive) friend or two and ask them beforehand if you can reach out if you’re struggling.
The winter holidays are a stressful time of year, even without having to pivot plans or make consequential decisions due to COVID-19. Change and uncertainty can be hard for anyone, and they are often especially so for people in recovery.
One way to reframe the adjustments you might have to make is that they’re a chance to create your own sober traditions. Typical winter holidays are so centered on substance use; the rituals you create this year could be a blueprint for sober holidays in the future.
The last thing most people in recovery want is to start a new year with a relapse. Marking a new year gives us the opportunity to reflect on our progress and make goals—whether that’s about growth in sobriety, or plans to get sober in the first place. A new year is for moving forward, not backwards.
There’s a lot of talk this time of year about holiday cheer. We may need that cheer more than ever in 2020—and relapsing will do the opposite for you. While staying sober during the holidays can be hard, it is not only possible; it will likely be more fun. When you think of this holiday season later, you will remember all of it.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build the coping skills to handle any season happily sober. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.