Tips For Navigating Christmas Alcohol Free

Tips For Navigating Christmas Alcohol Free

Christmas and the holidays can be a trying time for those who are newly sober and recovering from alcoholism. In fact, it is the time of year when people who don't regularly drink may have a greater tendency to imbibe.

You may be tempted to opt out on the holidays rather than risk relapse or simply avoid triggers, but there are a few ways you can make it easier on yourself if you have the courage to stand up and face your demons in front of everyone.

Christmas is also a time when depression can set in, so keep in mind that socializing in some manner may be a much better alternative than to go it alone – no matter how much you think you want to.

#1. Consider alcohol free gatherings first.

Now, at Christmas time you aren't likely to find many gatherings specifically for the recovering substance abuser, but you might have a good idea of where you can go that there probably won't be any alcohol.

In addition, if you talk to close family members or friends prior to the gathering, knowing your situation they may be willing to forego alcohol or keep drinking on the down low and to a minimum. Don't feel like this is an imposition on your part. If they say no, they say no. All you can do is ask.

And of course, there is the obvious solution – have your own alcohol free gathering on your own terms. If you aren't in the mood for big and fancy, do something small, or even just invite people over for a short time on Christmas Day. As I said, anything social is better than loneliness.

#2: Schedule your time or have an exit strategy.

alcohol free | Just Believe RecoverySpending hours with people who are drinking may be daunting. You can solve this by determining how long you think you can handle the situation. Plan on, say, just an hour at a gathering if you need to. If you feel comfortable, stay longer.

Conversely, if you have a partner, you can come up with a hint to let him or her know that you need to leave. A “safe word”, so to speak. Or, you can devise another extra strategy if you feel like you cannot be honest with other\s. An example might be to have someone call you, and make an excuse why you have to leave.

Personally, I think honestly is the best policy, and the quiet walk-away exit strategy, while helpful, does nothing to improve the stigma that faces alcoholics and addicts. Do what you must - but consider being honest, at least with those close to you at the gathering. Simply tell them that others drinking around you is a trigger and that you simply cannot risk a relapse.

#3. Think about what you can gain from the experience.

In addition to the social aspect that could be so beneficial to you right now, think about how empowering it is to be able to go into a situation and remain sober. Avoidance is sometimes necessary, but you can't avoid the world forever.

If you truly want to re-train your brain and adjust your behaviors, the best way is to put yourself in situations that are challenging. Any positive action you can manifest without drinking makes an impression on your brain. If you can make it through dinner, or just one hour, it's an accomplishment, and you can mentally and emotionally benefit from it.

Remember, it is better to try and fail that to not try at all. If the challenge is too great, leave. But at least your tried. Chances are you will feel better about yourself if you do.

#4. If you can't deal with a family gathering (or don't have one to attend) consider volunteering.

alcohol free | Just Believe RecoveryHomeless shelters, soup kitchens, and similar charities often have opportunities available to donate your time. Or you can try nursing homes, hospitals, or senior centers.

Many residents of these facilities don't get many visitors for the holiday, and those who do visit may sharply limit their time. Serving dinner, playing games, or simply chatting are good ways to pass the time with people who could use holiday company.

Volunteer opportunities such as this can allow you to be social and to give something of yourself on the holiday. In fact, it is probably one of the better alternative options I can think of. And of course, these environments are likely to be alcohol free.

Summary

Social situations, especially ones as festive as Christmas can be very difficult to navigate when you are in recovery from alcoholism. You can choose to avoid triggers, or face your demons, but most importantly, please make an attempt to have a happy Christmas with friends, family, or others. You won't regret it.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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