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Surviving the Holidays in Recovery

There are many ways to survive the holidays; to make new memories and traditions so you can get through the festivities clean and sober. Family can be a stressful situation to some, while it's a cakewalk to others. And if you plan on attending parties, be mindful of your surroundings. Actions begin with a simple thought! So go into any situation knowing you're not going to drink or drug. Set yourself up for success from the get-go because once you plant that seed of full abstinence, it starts to sprout, and grow into an idea. You have to make sure you're toolbox is full before going into any high-stress situation, whether it's due to family members or everyone getting drunk around you at a party. You must evaluate every situation accordingly, and know your triggers before stepping into any party so that you can generate a safe strategy! My number one rule is that if you feel your recovery is in danger - LEAVE! Nothing is worth your recovery, and I mean NOTHING! Make sure you always drive yourself to avoid getting stuck in those positions. You don't owe anyone staying in a toxic situation.

It can be hard to create new traditions for the holidays that don't involve drinking, but we can still make the most of it as long as we bring our creativity along onto new adventures and fun this season!

PLAN NEW OUTDOOR ADVENTURES. Build a snowman. Take a walk on the beach. Pick out a real tree this year, or harvest your very own with the family. Hike through the snowy, winter trails. Many ideas can come to mind when you think outside the box. No pun intended. Outdoor activities are a great way to ditch the alcohol because it's more than likely you'll need to stay hydrated!

MOVIE MARATHON. I can remember watching Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Frosty The Snowman throughout my childhood. If you have kids, then this is the perfect tradition to start! They'll love the movies, and you'll like the memories they bring back. It's a win-win! I'm 28 years old, and I still watch old Christmas movies every year because it gives me the Christmas feeling without the snow since I live in Florida. My favorite is Santa Clause with Tim Allen. Such a classic! There are even three amazing versions of The Grinch out now too!

ICE SKATING. Whether you live up North or down South, this can be fun for the entire family! They have skating rinks all over the country, and I guarantee one in every county. Just Google skating rinks near me, and I bet you'll find a couple!

DECORATING GINGERBREAD HOUSES. Here's a fun way to get messy during the holidays! My siblings and I would finish a gingerbread house almost every year with our mother. It was fun because we not only got to create one ourselves, but we were able to eat the candy as we went along, and after we finished them, they would get displayed by the front door for the rest of the season.

CHRISTMAS LIGHT TOURS. There's always one neighborhood we know of that go crazy for the holidays. I once had a neighbor fill his entire yard with lights and elves with a giant Santa and Snowmen. I considered it their tiny village because the sight was truly magical.

GIFT ACTIVITIES AND EXPERIENCES. Secret Santa! This is a fun idea you can enjoy with not only your family but friends, roommates, and coworkers as well. You put everyone's name in a hat, and whoever you chose will be whom you'd buy the gift for! It's undoubtedly a fun tradition for all ages alike!

ATTEND A MEETING EVENT! Meetings tend to create seasonal events all-year-round for those that don't have a family to celebrate with or if it's not safe for them to be around. Look throughout your area, and I guarantee you'll find something. Meetings are also a great way to make your own sober family! Always remember that family isn't based solely on blood, but by choice too! Many of us find ourselves handing around meetings more than their families even, and I can say that through personal experience.

THROW A SOBER PARTY - Sometimes it can be hard to find a good party that you trust yourself to attend, so that's when I'd suggest creating your very own! Invite some sober friends and family, buy a bunch of energy drinks, and have a blast with it! Go nuts! As long as you're not drinking or drugging, you should have a great time.


Whatever your family situation is, the holiday season can be a triggering time for those who are separated from or have complicated relationships with their loved ones. Family can be a colossal pain already without the added stress of the holidays, so when we're forced to engage with them on days such as these, you need to develop a workable plan to avoid any situation that can get you to the point of wanting to use. Remember, you can always bring a sober friend if needed!

First of all, you are not obligated to join in the family festivities. If you can't handle being around your family, you do not have to explain yourself. YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED to do anything just because it may make them feel better. Your sanity and recovery always come first! Also, no one says you can't limit your time with those certain relatives who tend to drive you crazy. If you're visiting and you find out your annoying alcoholic cousin will be in town for a week before Christmas, try coming later in the week to avoid some anxious circumstances.

But what if you arrive and family members begin to peer pressure you into drinking? Just tell them no, and if they continue, then walk away, but a method to avoid this situation is to walk around with a non-alcoholic drink already in hand. Most of the time, they won't notice that it's non-alcoholic, and it'll give less opportunity for them to try again. If things get uncomfortable, remove yourself from the situation. It might not always be easy to walk away, but engaging with intoxicated people who do not respect you won't do anyone any good.

So, you're the one with an alcoholic family member. Now, he's at your house getting trashed. To avoid those scenarios, please make sure you set some boundaries and rules for your household beforehand, and if they don't follow them, you have every right to buy them an Uber and send them home or back to their hotel room. You do not have to sacrifice your sanity to make your drunk family member happy. That is not your role. If you're attending a family event at another's house, do what makes you feel comfortable. If it's to leave, then leave. It's as simple as that.


You can use some of the ideas I've listed based on dealing with family to participate in a holiday party as well! But I did want to dive deeper into how to handle parties when in recovery, especially early recovery. Don't think you're too strong to say yes to relapsing because that will only last for so long. Trust me; I used to think I could be around drugs and alcohol and not use them. I felt strong and powerful whenever I did. It was almost a high in itself. But ultimately, I did use, and I couldn't deny the reason, and that was because I got too comfortable way too early in my recovery. And I didn't grasp my own limitations. The idea came into my head like it was the best idea I ever had. I thought since I could be around it, I could use occasionally. This insanity went on for years. If you need to leave any situation, then, by all means, please do. If it's not a family party, then it's a party full of potential people who will peer pressure you, so it's best to know how to either leave or manage, rather than suffer through in an uncomfortable situation.

My main suggestion is more of a silent demand, and that's to make sure you have an escape plan! It would be best if you remembered to choose your parties wisely. I know we all have work parties and parties that our non-alcoholic friends throw, but we have to understand what we can and cannot handle. I'd suggest always driving yourself to these parties. That way, you can leave whenever you want. Let your support or sober network know the situation ahead of time, and find those who can be available to you just in case you need someone to call. One can include calling your sober support and acting as if an emergency came up, and that you need to leave. Yeah, it's a lie, but I'd rather you tell a little white lie than to start drinking or using. And you can always bring a sober friend with you! I used to attend a meeting before going to a party. That way, I set the mood before diving into the situation, and it's ok if there are some parties you can't go. There were some even I couldn't attend when I was in early recovery.

I know the holidays can be stressful, but I promise there are ways around the anxiety of it all. Keeping ourselves clean and sober will forever remain our top priority at all times, and there's no exception just because it's the season of gatherings. Family reunions can transpire, and social outings are deemed safe as long as you have a plan in action if something goes wrong. What I discovered is that I needed to learn to trust myself, too. People will always try and tell you how to live your recovery, but only you know yourself better than anyone. If something doesn't feel right, then listen to your gut always and only show up for what you're mentally prepared to endure. And if something feels trustworthy while others tell you otherwise, listen to yourself. You'll never learn to trust yourself until you do. You don't owe anyone anything, but you do owe yourself your sobriety. Most importantly, you're supposed to have fun when attending holiday festivities. Please try and enjoy yourself the best way you know how. It'll slowly get better in time. Happy Holidays!

By: Kerry Williams


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