Have Yourself A Sober Little Christmas
You are not Home Alone
Christmas; one of the most challenging times of the year for anyone who has or is struggling with early recovery or active addiction. It is not easy. Feelings of isolation may arise, including frustration, despair, anger, and loneliness. You are not alone. Hundreds and thousands of people are also walking this road less travelled, and we are here with some festive tips to support you.
The idea of staying sober over the holidays can be scary when in early recovery or active addiction. As Christmas quickly approaches, so do the holiday parties and family events, both of which can be difficult to navigate.
A good goal for these holidays? Instead of focusing your energy on buying presents, focus on being present.
Jingle All The Way
Our main priority here at The Lighthouse Bali, is to help you create a life of clarity, confidence and commitment to becoming the best version of yourself. Christmas is a challenging time, and one of our busiest and rewarding times of the year here in Bali, but for those of you who are reading this in search of some support, we hope to share a few ways to help you in your sobriety during the holidays.
Here at The Lighthouse Bali, one of our main focusses is helping our clients recognize the three main triggers; People, Places and Situations. The people, places, and things you experience every day play a vital role in encouraging or discouraging substance use, no matter the stage of addiction or recovery.
If you want to remain substance-free, you must make some changes to the people, places, and situations with which you may have found triggering.
It is not just the Christmas holidays which can welcome stress and negativity into our lives, people can too.
It is important to take self-care seriously throughout the holidays. Make sure you are sleeping properly, continue to attend recovery meetings, and try to keep over-eating in check. Before attending any holiday event make sure you follow the HALT principle: avoiding being too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. If you have a strong trigger, then immediately call a recovery friend!
Be kind to yourself by only attending those festive functions for which you have a valid reason to go. Do not put yourself through any unnecessary torture by attending events just to please others- your health comes first. This is not selfishness, this is survival.
If you are very early in recovery or still trying to fight your addiction, it might be best to skip some or all of the holiday parties. Only you can be the judge of that, but it would be a good idea to talk to a friend in sobriety and explain the situation and explore the possible triggers.
Above all: remember that you have the power to say NO!
The Ghost of Christmas Past
If you are feeling anxious about the holidays, then make sure to play through your memory bank. Is it worth getting blacked out and embarrassing yourself at the Christmas party? Is it worth having to sneak away to the bathroom to use at a family event? Is it worth losing your job, getting arrested, or wrecking your family’s holiday?
The Ghost of Christmas Present
Being sober does not mean that you need to isolate yourself from enjoying some festive fun. If anything, being sober is something that you should feel proud in celebrating, especially during this time of year. Just make sure that it is on your terms and within your means.
If you want to blend during the holiday events, then there is an easy solution. This technique will work well at any party with an open bar such as a company event, or other dinners or gatherings located in bars or restaurants.
Go up to the bartender and order your diet coke or your soda water with a lime and in a “short” glass, and you will automatically have a drink which looks like a spirit and mixer. Invisibility enabled! Often, no one will ask you if you need a drink while you’re still holding one in your hand.
If you have a family or work tradition to toast with champagne, then bring your own sparkling apple juice with you!
The Ghost of Christmas Future
Throughout this process the best advice is to plan ahead and keep sobriety in the forefront of all of your holiday decisions. If you know there is going to be a stressful situation with loved ones, then tell a sober friend ahead of time. Ask them to be on-call in case you need sober support during the event.
If you are going to an event that would be socially acceptable to bring a friend then bring another recovery buddy with you. You will probably learn some sober party tips from them too! It is normal to feel uncomfortable; just remember there are plenty of other friends, co-workers, and family members that have similar feelings.
Why do we have to justify not drinking? In today’s society, alcohol is the only drug for which we have to explain a reason for NOT using. Many people will admit they relapsed because they just didn’t have a good reason to say no. Make sure you formulate your reason in advance.
If you find yourself in the company of someone who will keep pressing you to take that Christmas cocktail, then plan a reason why you can’t or won’t. It could be that you’re on antibiotics and can’t mix alcohol. Maybe you have a migraine after a long week and you really just need to take it easy tonight. Whatever excuse you are comfortable with, just make sure you have it prepared ahead of time.
Don’t forget, people love to talk about themselves. If someone is bugging you to drink, then distract them by turning the conversation around to that person: How is your family and work? What have you done lately that you really enjoy? Have you already bought everyone’s Christmas present? Any good surprises?
If a co-worker or a family member is persistent, and you feel yourself getting triggered, then politely excuse yourself and go for a walk. If this happens again after you return, then just leave.
If all else fails, make sure you have an exit strategy. This could involve asking a sober friend to call or message you at a pre-arranged time. If you feel you need an excuse to leave then you might explain that a loved one needs your help, or perhaps the neighbor has locked themselves out and you have their spare key.
It is also good to remember when dealing with another intoxicated individual that they might be fighting their own substance abuse battle. Have patience but be firm with your boundaries.
When you’re with family it can be extremely taxing and triggering. You might have in-laws that stress you out, other loved ones that have substance abuse problems, or family members that always judge you.
On these occasions, it might be easier to play with the younger kids, help mum in the kitchen, or spend time with the one interesting uncle you never see. Find a task or an opportunity to assist and these distractions will often help alleviate the chances of triggers and stress.
If you want your recovery journey to remain anonymous then you can use some of the justifications, you prepared for your work events. Another justification to share is that you’re still recovering from the last time you drank. This applies to anyone in recovery!
If you have a partner, discuss it with them first and plan your approach together. You might not want your partner telling aunt Gertrude that you’re in AA and not drinking anymore, and that is fine – this is your journey, and you should be able to choose who you share it with.
Love is important. It is helpful to discuss your sobriety with a caring loved one who will understand your journey. This will help alleviate the burden on your shoulders. Often, when you share with honesty, loved ones will be compassionate and share their life battles with you too.
If you find yourself at a loose end – REACH OUT. You are not alone. A simple search on the internet will bring up a list of nearby meetings where you can join others who are in the same ‘sleigh’ as you during this festive season. You do not have to suffer in silence – both sharing and caring are two successful survival tools to keep you sober.
If you reach the end of the holidays and you have failed your test, or relapsed, please reach out immediately for help. Do not think of yourself as a failure, and give up! Rehab in Bali might not be such a bad choice if the alternatives are pain and misery! The holidays can be a difficult time but the gift of sobriety is more than worth the effort. With support, you can achieve that wonderful life.