stay sane holidays

How to stay sober (and sane) during the holidays

Turkey and beer clash miserably, but that doesn’t mean plenty of folks won’t be drinking on Thanksgiving. The drink count tends to get even higher for Christmas, Hanukkah and, of course, New Year’s Eve. Holiday outings, parties, family gatherings or even restaurant dinners can come with constant offers of everything from rum-laced eggnog to mistletoe martinis.

Being around alcohol all season long can get wearisome indeed. Not only can the constant flow of drinks and increased drunkenness of everyone around you become uncomfortable, but you may be pelted with the urge to pick up a drink yourself. Don’t.

So how do you stay sober during the holidays? A number of tips can help. While these tips are geared toward protecting your recovery in the midst of drinking scenes, they can also do double duty as a way to protect your serenity and sanity in the midst of dysfunctional family scenes.

Prep yourself before you go.

When you know a risky event is coming up, prepare yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. Get plenty of sleep so you’re not tired, cranky and off-guard. Earlier in the week, head to a few extra recovery meetings and call a few extra pals in your support network. Establish a personal game plan with your recovery coach.

Pray, meditate, do yoga. Ask God and your guardian angels for extra reinforcements. Heck, invite them to come with you to the event. You can even say you’re reserving the seat next to you for them if perchance some jerky goofball or an old drunken uncle tries to sit down to chatter your ear off.

Set a time limit.

The thought of spending an entire evening or day surrounded by people swilling spiked cider and mulled wine can be daunting, not to mention unattractive. An hour or two can be much more do-able. Keep your appearances short. Show up near the start of the fete before everyone’s totally wasted, then head out when people start to get that way.

Bring phone numbers.

Make sure to take along several phone numbers of trusted friends, confidants, family members or others in your recovery support group who you can call if you start to feel like you’re losing your mind. Leave a message if no one answers. Verbalizing the chaos in your head can help deflate it, even if no one is officially on the other end of the line. Texting can also work in a pinch. 

Stay busy.

Help the host set the table or serve hors d’oeuvres. Draw pictures or build blocks with the kids. Play with the dog, cat or goldfish. Well, you can’t really play with a goldfish, but you get the idea. Keep yourself busy helping and focusing on others so you’re not sitting around thinking about how you’re not drinking.

Have an escape plan.

Having your own way to get home when you want to leave a holiday party is a big one, but it’s not always possible. When you’re out of town visiting family or otherwise sharing rides, you may end up dependent on someone else for getting home. That means you can’t leave until they want to. Dang.

Make sure you have the number of a local car service or ride share info if needed, along with the address of where you are and where you need to go. It may sound drastic, but it can be a life saver if you’re in a situation where you urgently feel you need to leave.

If leaving isn’t an option, don’t forget you can take a brisk walk around the block or otherwise head outside for some air.

Just don’t go.

It’s OK to decline invitations if you just don’t feel you’re up to the scene you expect at any given occasion. Your sobriety, recovery and sanity are more important than forcing yourself to attend an event for fear of appearing rude. Thank the host for the invite and politely decline.

You don’t have to make some huge excuse, either. Simply say your schedule can’t accommodate it right now, but maybe next time.

The best holiday gift you can give yourself is a successful season of sobriety, sanity and serenity – with a life-size wolf statue ranking second, and new boots coming in third.

Like the holiday recovery tips? Treat yourself to a free e-book copy of the Top 6 Daily Recovery Tips.

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