5 Tips to Navigate the Holidays in Early Recovery

The early stages of your recovery are often the most difficult, and it’s important to take extra care to better know what you’re doing, where you’re going, and any potential bad influences you could come in contact with. We’ve put together some tips to keep in mind to help you through holiday gatherings that, more often than not, include dangerous temptations.

1. Staying in could be a smart move.

If you are thinking about going out and attending a party, get together, work celebration, etc. and have the slightest bit of doubt about your intentions, listen to your intuition. If you know alcohol will be readily accessible, bring a sober support or again, choose not to put yourself in a tempting situation. If you know drugs may be at the function, are you sure you want to attend? Don’t let your ego push you in attending a function where you can put yourself at risk of relapse. It’s ok to stay home.

2. If you must go, have a way home and an exit plan.

There’s often a lot of drinking at holiday parties. If you absolutely must attend a holiday function, plan your exit strategy ahead of time. This means that before you go, have your own means of escape lined up. Go in your own car. Don't catch a ride with someone else who might want to stay longer, and keep on drinking, when you're ready and need to leave. If there's public transportation, know the schedule. At minimum, notify a support person about your plans so you can be held accountable. In your head, this may seem like overkill, but you are putting yourself and risk and that’s nothing to slack on.

3. Get a beverage as soon as you arrive and don't let go.

Go to the bar and get a non-alcoholic. Watch the bartender carefully. It's really loud and he might have heard you say "whiskey and Coke" when all you said was Coke. If you are holding a drink, whether it's soda, juice, or just plain water, people are less likely to offer you a drink or ask you why you’re not drinking. Being sober at parties may be new and unfamiliar to you, and that’s ok. You are embarking on a new way of life and this is one of the many new experiences you will have. It’s possible that you will see someone drunk and making a fool of themselves, and you can smile knowing that it’s not you this time.

4. You don’t have to explain your choice not to get loaded.

If someone asks you why you are not drinking or getting loaded, you do not have to explain the details of your recovery.  An unassuming answer, like, "I just don't feel like it tonight,” is adequate. You get to choose who you share your story with and there's an appropriate time, place, and audience for everything. If you feel comfortable enough to share your position with that person, then you can. It’s up to you.

5. Remember what it’s all about.

Remember what the holidays are all about. They are time for family, friends, and togetherness. It’s time to re-write your holiday experiences into positive memories. We don’t need an excuse to pick-up a drug or a drink, so don’t make a holiday your scapegoat. We have a choice every day to make the decision to stay in recovery, and this includes during the holidays.

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