Trusted Content

Staying Sober Over Christmas

Dr. Anna Pickering

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Anna Pickering

April 3, 2019

Christmas is, ostensibly, the most wonderful time of year. Unfortunately, it is often a season when many people feel stressed and depressed, due to work commitments and the expenses associated with buying presents. And those feelings often contribute to an increase in relapses or drug and alcohol use. Follow these tips to stay sober and happy during the Christmas season.

Avoiding Depression

Feelings of depression and hopelessness follow many people recovering from addiction. And these feelings are often amplified during the holiday season. Multiple studies have shown that people get hit heaviest by depression during the holiday season. This is no good for your recovery, as it can lead to a relapse or even a new addiction.

Part of that depression can be linked to the lack of sunlight that comes in the winter season, but other causes include lack of exercise, bad memories, exposure to unpleasant family members, guilt over your former addiction, lack of sleep, a decrease in energy, and a lower than normal sex drive. Fighting all of these concerns can be a major hurdle for people during the holiday season.

However, the following tips should help keep you out of the depression groove and help you avoid a relapse:

  • Relax and meditate every day to calm your nerves
  • Avoid eating too much food
  • Stay active physically
  • Visit a counselor to assess your emotional state
  • Attend a spiritual service of your choice
  • Spend time with people who make you happy
  • Donate to charity
  • Keep your costs down when buying presents to avoid money concerns

Falling victim to the idea that Christmas is a depressing or expensive time of year will only interfere with your recovery. Stay upbeat and positive and you’ll find your cravings or need to use will sharply decrease.

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Eliminate Usage Hot Spots

People often have “hot spots” or triggers that helped contribute to their addiction. These triggers can be people, locations, or even situations. Many of these triggers are likely to be present during the Christmas season and it’s important to identify yours.

For example, maybe there’s a certain member of the family that really drives you crazy and you’re anticipating seeing them this Christmas season. In the past, you turned to alcohol or drugs to deal with the negative emotions they generated. Instead of turning to substances, simply try to avoid the person. If that’s impossible, just try to minimize your interaction with them.

Or maybe there’s a family holiday party that always features plenty of heavy eggnog consumption. In the past, you attended this party and ended up drinking too much. Find a way to avoid this party or bring a non-alcoholic drink along with you. If people see you drinking something else, they’re less likely to pressure you to drink.

Carefully Plan Each Day

One of the joys of the Christmas season is unexpectedly seeing people you never anticipated or going places you never expected. Unfortunately, a spontaneous holiday season can result in running into people who may trigger a relapse or creating a situation that many addiction experts refer to as H.A.L.T. This stands for “hungry, angry, lonely, and tired.”

These feelings can often be triggered by a hectic and wild Christmas season. And they can push your mood into a loop of relapse. Avoid these problems by scheduling regular meals every day, by sleeping at least eight hours a night, and by spending time with people you love every day. To avoid anger, try breathing exercises or other relaxed activities. It’ll help you maintain a more positive and joyous mood.

Create A Support Group

If you’re still struggling to maintain a sober Christmas, you should reach out to friends and family members and create a 5-10 person support group. This group should include people whom you feel comfortable reaching out to at any time to discuss any anxieties or cravings you may feel during the holiday season.

Exchange cell phone numbers, e-mail information, and social media contacts with these people to create an all-encompassing support environment. And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you really need it: a great support group will protect you from relapse and help you continue to have a sober Christmas.

Finding Professional Help Near You

These tips are likely going to be good enough for most people to stay sober this holiday season. But what if you’re right on the brink of relapsing? You might need to visit a professional sobriety or a rehabilitation expert immediately. For help finding one near you, please contact us at immediately. We have counselors that understand what you’re going through and who are ready to help you stay focused and drug-free this holiday season.

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