The Struggle with holiday sobriety is real

By Michael Leach


Over the holidays, there is an increased number of holiday work events, family gatherings and social functions. It is the time of the year to celebrate with family and friends.

While it is a joyous time of year for most families, it can be challenging with stressful relationships, shopping, financing, feelings of grief and loss, and endless family gatherings. Achieving a perfectly sober holiday is a struggle, but not impossible.

Despite relapse triggers or the endless temptation to overindulge, the holidays do not have to mean jeopardizing recovery or a choice to abstain from alcohol. There are practical ways to help maintain sobriety.

Perhaps the best way to avoid relapse or overindulging during the holidays is to have a well-thought-out plan.

Lasting recovery or holiday sobriety does not mean missing out on all the holiday festivities and celebrations; it just means being smart about it.

Initially, there are some things to consider when attending holiday celebrations, for example:

Who will be at the party? Is there anyone there who could compromise your sobriety?

What do I say when someone offers me a drink, and are there non-alcoholic options?

How will I get home if I feel uncomfortable and need to leave?

What are the possible relapse triggers? Is there a risk of overindulgence?

“There are endless non-alcoholic options to enjoy, and holiday mocktails are popular because it provides a safer option and a better choice for sober guests,” said Marcel Gemme of “Non-alcoholic options also eliminate the risk of drinking and driving.”

According to the Traffic Safety Commission, on average, 100 people are arrested between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, and 50% of roadway fatalities are due to impaired driving.

Knowing what you are getting into with each holiday celebration makes it easier to avoid vulnerable situations. However, you may require some support. Going to these parties with a sober friend or another person who is not drinking alcohol over the holidays is often beneficial.

A support system for someone in recovery could be 12-step meetings, sponsors, a treatment center, or friends and family. A support network is vital when in recovery, especially around the holidays.

One critical point that many people neglect is to take care of yourself. The acronym H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) is an excellent way to remember basic needs. When people become hungry, they are more susceptible to anxiety and stress. The same occurs when someone becomes angry or lonely. Sleep is often neglected during the holidays. Adequate sleep is critical to maintaining sobriety.

Finally, create new traditions and find the holiday spirit. It is essential to look beyond the parties, gifts, and celebrations. Find the real meaning of the holidays, joy, compassion, and kindness. Discover gratitude in every moment. Write down everything that you are grateful for as a reminder.

While in recovery, gratitude is essential to the process and could help anyone through the holiday season. It is the season of giving and giving thanks. Every day during the holidays is a new reason to celebrate sobriety.

Michael Leach has spent most of his career as a healthcare professional specializing in Substance Use Disorder and addiction recovery. He is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, and contributor to the healthcare website Recovery Begins.