For someone in recovery, the holiday season can be loaded with landmines, especially for someone who is in the nascent phase of recovery. Everywhere you turn there are advertisements and commercials depicting folks celebrating together, glasses of wine, brandy, beer or cocktails in hand as they revel in the holiday festivities. Booze and holiday cheer seem to be interwoven in our society.
As adults in recovery who may have spent many years partaking in this tradition, and who are now extracting themselves from the holiday partying scenarios, it may seem that the only way to stay sober over these four weeks is to hide in your home and wait it out. But maybe, just maybe, a little refresher is all it takes to change that strategy; to be reminded of the many wholesome and sober activities available for anyone who still wants to participate in the joys of the season.
Invite some sober friends to a bowling party. Bring some appetizers and non-alcoholic festive beverages, and maybe a small gift for the winner of the tournament. Bowling is always fun, especially when it’s only a ball in the gutter and not you.
If you live near a lake or the coast, enjoy the boat parades. Get all bundled up and bring a thermos of hot chocolate and watch the decorated boats show off their holiday trappings.
Go see a Christmas play like The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol at a local performing arts center. Lose yourself in the story for a couple of hours and enjoy the message.
Plan an afternoon sporting event, weather permitting. Get some friends together for a game of softball, football or volleyball. It is great exercise and a chance to have some clean fun. Watch how much better you play now sober.
Go see a holiday concert or a Christmas chorale performance. Nothing defines the joy of Christmas like beautiful music. Let it move your soul.
An important element of recovery is the concept of giving back, or offering your time to help others in need. What better venue to put this in action than at a local homeless shelter where you can help with the preparation or serving of the holiday meal. Organize a food drive and take the collected food to a local pantry too.
Local malls and downtown centers usually have special embellishments during the holiday season, such as a trolley, horse-drawn carriages or carolers. Grab a friend and put yourselves in the midst of this festive environment. Watch children light up as they go see Santa, and maybe get some shopping done while you’re at it.
Plan a sober party. If attending parties where alcohol will be plentiful, possibly sabotaging your recovery, is too risky, why not plan your own party with sober friends and family? Make it a potluck to keep costs down, find some festive holiday punch recipes and offer sparkling cider, put on some great music, play some board games and have a white elephant gift exchange.
If you live in a snowy region, bundle up, get outside and enjoy winter activities with friends. Get out the sled and saucers, go tobogganing or find the local ice rink.
Go to see a movie and have dinner with friends. All the big movies are released in December, so make an event out of it. Or, rent some classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “White Christmas,” invite some friends over, make a batch of popcorn and have movie night right at home.
If there is absolutely no way to get around attending an office party or family event where alcohol will be served, taking a few preventative measures will help you navigate the risks. Arrive with your own non-alcoholic beverage and keep it filled through the duration. Bring an AA buddy or sober companion along to help you get through the event. Plan to call your sponsor every hour, if needed. No need to stay long, just politely excuse yourself when you feel it is time to go.
Go out and enjoy the beauty of the season happy in your sobriety.
Sovereign Health Group is a residential treatment provider specializing in addiction, dual diagnosis and mental health treatment. For information, call our team at 866-524-5504, or check out reviews online at stage.sovhealth.com.
Written by Eileen Spatz, Sovereign Health Group writer