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How to Navigate Stress, Sobriety and the Holidays
The holidays are a time of festivity and celebration, times when families come together and friends make plans for the new year. However, it is also a time where many celebrate with the use of alcohol. Wine, beer, and liquor have become somewhat of a center piece of many seasonal parties. However, this isn’t the only reason that people will pop open a bottle of champagne. Yes, it should be a popular time for people to celebrate, but the holidays are also a time that can cause a lot of stress for someone, making sobriety and the holidays difficult for many in recovery to navigate.
For some families, a lot of coordination goes into celebrating the holidays. Whether it is someone hosting the family dinner, having relatives stay with them, or struggling to buy gifts for their loved ones, there are a lot of balls in the air this time of year. All of this stress can pile up on a person and can make them more likely to consume alcohol. For someone who is battling alcoholism, this stress can seem amplified, especially when others are taking part in the festivities around that sober person.
Having a drink at the end of a long day has become a popular way to relieve stress. This is worse around the winter season with the special drinks everyone offers, like eggnog, mulled wine, and spiked cider. However, alcohol may not provide as big as a relief as people think it does, and it can actually prolong the stress that people are feeling. With the alcohol and stress feeding into each other, they could trigger a destructive cycle that is hard to escape from. Even after the holidays have passed.
It’s not surprising that multiple parties will be coming up around this time of year. The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve is full of celebrations with friends, coworkers, and family. Naturally, these parties are times of excess, when people let loose and drink more than they normally would. This doesn’t just mean increased alcohol consumption, but also more people are more likely to drive drunk. On average, 27 people die each day in December from drunk driving. Past DUI offenders’ drinking violations increased an average of 33% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. With these kinds of dangers more present, it is more important than ever to stay sober this holiday season.
Ways to Stay Sober this Holiday
The period from Thanksgiving to the New Year is a time of parties and feasts with friends, family, and even coworkers. Partnered with the stress the season can bring, someone who has suffered from alcoholism in the past may feel more temptation around this time of year. This can make it hard to be around large groups of people who are indulging in alcoholic drinks. Still, no one wants to sit a party out. If you are expected to be guest at multiple parties through the season, try some of the things below to stave off temptation.
1. Stay Connected
Make sure to check in with your support network. With how hectic the season can be, some people tend to not speak for the days around their celebrations. However, it is more crucial than ever to stay connected. Reach out to your friends, family, loved ones, or anyone who supports your sobriety. It may even be an appropriate time to see if there are any meetings in your area you could attend to reinforce your will. Whatever network of support you’ve established, knowing they are there for you can be just what you need this holiday.
2. Bring a Buddy
Bringing a plus-1 to a party who supports your sobriety can be an excellent way to stave off cravings. If you do feel temptation, this person is someone close to you who knows your history to help. Being able to confide in them when you are feeling pressures, and also having them to pull you away from dangerous situations, can stop you from suffering a relapse. This buddy can also distract anyone who might be creating a harder time for you.
3. Keep a Drink in your hands
Keeping a glass full of juice, soda, or water can reduce the pressure that other people at the event may try to put on you. If they see you sipping from a cup, they are less likely to come and offer you a drink. It can also make you feel less alienated and unable you to have more fun with everyone else at the party, without your recovery being at the front of your mind.
4. Have an Exit Strategy
It is always important that in a last case scenario, if there is too much stress or pressure to drink, that you have an exit strategy prepared. This is especially important if you are at some party alone and don’t have any support present. Remember, your sobriety is more important than impressing people at a party.
5. Enjoy The Holiday In Ways That Don’t Involve Alcohol
The holidays don’t have to be all parties. Make a list of places you can go and things you can do, either in a group or alone, that don’t involve the presence of alcohol. There are all kinds of festivities all over the country, like caroling, winter markets, parades, and live music. Find some events near you to celebrate the season sober.
Author — Last Edited: December 7, 2018
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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2018). The Truth About Holiday Spirits. Retrieved on December 5th, 2018, from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/RethinkHoliday/NIAAA_Holiday_Fact_Sheet.pdf
Permanente, Kaiser. (2015). Alcohol Consumption Increases During Holidays. Retrieved on December 5th, 2018, from https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/sponsor-story/kaiser-permanente/2015/12/03/alcohol-consumption-increases-during-holidays/76744200/
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Science Daily. (2011). Stress and Alcohol ‘Feed’ Each Other. Retrieved on December 5th, 2018, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110715163216.htm
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