The holidays can be a stressful time of year for anyone. For those of us who are entering the holiday season sober, things can feel additionally stressful. From travel to relationships with family and loved ones, coping with holiday-related emotions can take some skill and effort.
The following are some of the most important tips for soberly navigating the holiday season. With a little foresight, things may not need to be as stressful as you expect.
Manage your expectations
Growing up, I put Christmas on a pedestal — and it usually delivered. As I got older and the presents decreased in frequency and some of the childhood magic was lost, I strived to recreate those same feelings by putting unrealistic expectations on those around me.
I expected others to get me things I wanted without me telling them. I expected to wake up and see even more presents under the tree than were there the night before — a clear indication that something magical had happened. I expected everyone else to know how much Christmas meant to me.
I ruined a lot of Christmas mornings by clinging to these unrealistic expectations and neglecting to communicate them to anyone around me. This holiday season, make sure to check in with yourself about what you expect from your interactions with others. Think about whether they are realistic or not. If you have a realistic expectation of someone else, make sure to communicate that to them to avoid unnecessary stress and disappointment.
Have a plan
The holiday season also means a lot of holiday parties, from friends and family to work events. Whether you’ve been sober for a decade or a day, navigating alcohol at these events may be a struggle.
Make sure to have a plan going into a situation. What will you do if someone offers you a drink? What will you do if you start to feel uncomfortable? What if you decide you need to leave?
Think of possible scenarios and plan out your responses and actions to each one. This way you’re not left grasping at straws if a situation arises.
Have someone you can talk to
Whether it’s a friend, family member, or sponsor, make sure you have someone you can call or talk to in person if you feel like you’re having a tough time. It’s perfectly fine to ask for help if you need it.
Give yourself a break
Nothing is perfect. Things often don’t go as planned, people may disappoint you, and you will probably make a mistake at some point this holiday season. Along with managing your expectations, make sure to go easy on yourself. Relapses are often associated with stress, not being able to cope with emotions, and/or shame associated with your perception of yourself.
Laugh at your mistakes. Take things one day at a time. Try and look for the positive in every situation or how you can learn from what’s happened. The less stress you put on yourself during this holiday season, the easier it will be to get through it without that drink.
Erin is a Chicago-based blogger, personal trainer, and fitness instructor. Her blog, Erin’s Inside Job, is an exploration of finding true wellness from all facets of life including the physical, mental, and emotional. Prompted to begin writing after entering recovery from drugs and alcohol, she is also passionate about breaking the stigma surrounding addiction. In her spare time you can find her writing for such publications as The Huffington Post, sweating her way around Chicago, and finding the best coffee and desserts in the city!