8 Ways To Manage Your First Christmas Sober

Christmas and the holiday season are a wonderful time of year for many reasons, but it can also be a challenging time for some. Between holiday stress, family, old friends, and triggers, Christmas can be trying when you have recently gone through a recovery rehab program. Your first sober Christmas in recovery can be overwhelming while you are still learning how to navigate sober living and relapse triggers this time of year. Here are some ways you can have a fun, relaxed, and substance-free Christmas holiday.

Force yourself to be positive

Sobriety is a mind game as much as anything else. Once you’ve decided to go for it, start feeling good about it. You’re doing something amazing right now. Remove any thoughts about being the only person sober or feeling left out. Alcohol does not have magic properties. It cannot transform a bad party into a good one. Recovery might feel difficult right now, especially during the holidays, but you’re headed towards a much brighter, happier future.

While some people may be drinking alcohol to celebrate the Christmas season, that’s not the true meaning of the holiday. Christmas is a time to gather with loved ones, give thoughtful gifts, and remember the birth of Jesus (if you’re religious). Instead of focusing on how difficult it may be to stay sober, focus on:

  • The true meaning of Christmas.
  • Why you’re sober and what happens when you’re not.
  • A positive attitude (you can get through this).
  • Genuine social connections (without alcohol getting in the way).
  • Christmas festivities such as decorating and baking cookies.

Prepare for stressful situations

Christmas can be a time of great stress–family disagreements are more likely to erupt and just the general busy nature of the season can be overwhelming. Stress is a major trigger for alcohol or drug use, and it’s maybe harder to avoid stressful situations during the holidays. To keep your stress levels as low as possible, do a little preparation. Instead of reaching for the wine if your relatives try to pick a fight, just leave the room and focus on something else, such as quietly meditating, watching a motivational YouTube video, going for a nice long walk to clear your head, or even playing a board game with the children. 

Take Care of Yourself

The holiday season is a time of giving, but that doesn’t mean you should only focus on others during this time of year. Celebrate the holiday season and the fullness of your new sober life by taking time for yourself. It’s also crucial to look after yourself, especially when you’re recently in recovery.

Stress can be reduced by getting enough sleep, eating a good diet, and exercising–all of which can improve your physical and mental health. Relapse is less likely when you focus on being kind to yourself and making positive choices. Take some time to pamper yourself as well. After a long day, relax in a warm bath or read a book. Watch the snowfall while sipping a cup of hot cocoa or warm tea. Reward yourself for being sober, or find a substance-free way to unwind.

Prepare a Response

Some people won’t notice that you’re not drinking, but it’s worth preparing a response for those who do ask about it.  Respond confidently and then move the conversation on. You can include a few of the following white drinking lies:

  • I’ve got a stomach ulcer (being specific always helps)
  • I’m on antibiotics
  • I’ve just finished a drink

Create a Safe Environment

Trying to stay sober during your first Christmas in recovery is a lot harder when you are surrounded by relapse triggers. This year, make sure you avoid people and places that do not support your recovery efforts or social gatherings where you know there will be substances everywhere. When you place yourself in a safe and comfortable environment, you are setting yourself up for success.

Know Your Limits

Knowing your limits especially around busy periods like Christmas is important. Tackling your ‘to-do list’ can become even harder and people may ask more of you during this season; whether it’s shopping, decorating, or cooking. Set realistic expectations for yourself and other people. Don’t be afraid to set healthy boundaries and again, say no if it’s for the best for your wellbeing.

If you do begin to feel overwhelmed, break the day into manageable sizes; an afternoon, an hour, or even five minutes. Whatever it takes to help you distress and remain in control is important.

Volunteer Your Time

If you want to stay sober during the holidays, look for opportunities to be of service and volunteer. Serve a meal at a homeless shelter, spend time with an elderly loved one or neighbor. There are many different ways to give back, pay it forward, and be of service to your community. 

When you take the opportunity to connect with others—to see, value, and honor their experience—you exercise empathy. You exist outside of yourself, and you begin to notice all the blessings your life already contains. And it doesn’t get more human, or more recovery, than that.

Ask for Support

It might be hard to be the only sober person during the holiday season. But you’re not alone. Asking a close friend or loved one to join you on a sober Christmas can provide great support and motivation. Having someone in your corner who can give you a mental high five every time you both refuse an alcoholic beverage can give you the confidence you need during this time of year. It might also be easier to say “no” to people who keep offering you a drink – because having someone to back you up can give you self-confidence.

You can have a sober Christmas and New Year’s Eve by implementing a few practical changes into your holiday celebrations. 

If you or your loved one is struggling to stay sober this Christmas holiday, it may be the time to reach out for help. Contact our admissions team to learn about our individualized rehab programs today. 

Your new life starts here. At Riverside Recovery, we focus on the long run, not just one stage of your recovery. We provide multiple levels of care to help you move through treatment and prepare for an independent life. There are no shortcuts in this process and through endless support, we provide intensive care on your journey to recovery. Contact us today and get back to the life you love.