The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States reported that it makes more than 25% of its profits between Thanksgiving and New Years. It seems like a huge percentage, but it makes sense when you think about how many people have holiday parties during this period.
In fact, a 2018 study found that 88% of Americans experience holiday stress. This stress comes from many sources—the pressure to find the latest sold-out toy, arguing about who will cook or mingling with boring coworkers at the office party are just a few triggers.
But if you’re part of the LGBTQ community, you know the stress doesn’t end there. In addition to classic holiday stressors, many in the community also have to deal with Bible-thumping in-laws and half-hearted acceptance from grandma. Even families that are accepting may feel confused about how you live your life or pressure you to settle down.
Given all of the expectations, pressures and uncomfortable moments, it’s no wonder alcohol and drug use is so high during the holidays. And in many cases, the desire to unwind and join in on the fun can be tough to ignore.
But the holiday season doesn’t have to mean binge drinking or relapsing. Here are five tips for staying clean and sober during the holiday season.
1. Plan Ahead
If you’re heading to a holiday party and want to stay sober, the best thing you can do is plan ahead. This could mean driving yourself so you can leave before the party gets out of hand, inviting a sober companion to support you, bringing your own non-alcoholic drinks or inventing a reason for why you’re not drinking.
This tip is especially useful for LGBTQ people heading to events where they’re likely to face uncomfortable scenarios. Get ready by acknowledging potential arguments or issues that might come up. Then, plan responses to diffuse the situation, rather than fuel it. When you’re in a de-escalation mindset, you’re less likely to feel stressed and reach for a drink or drugs.
2. Know Your Boundaries
Before you step foot at a party, decide where your boundaries are. If your Aunt Kathy always criticizes your career, avoid her. If Uncle Jim always tries to hand you a stiff drink, stay away. If your friend’s Christmas party is all about getting drunk and high, show up for half an hour or don’t go at all.
In these scenarios, it’s easy to overestimate your willpower. Instead of “powering through” a situation filled with relapse triggers, make a realistic estimate of what you’re able to handle and stick to it.
This is even more important for LGBTQ people. If your family doesn’t accept you, you’re not obligated to attend their celebration. If you feel like staying away from a family event is better for your mental and emotional health, then stay home and do something that will bring you joy (see the next tip for some ideas).
If you decide to attend, consider ways to make your stay more manageable. This could mean staying in a hotel instead of in the family house or taking a walk when tempers get out of hand.
3. Prioritize Self Care
With everything that needs to get done during the holiday season, it’s easy to ignore your own needs. But we can’t be our best selves if we’re running on empty. That’s why it’s so important to be deliberate about self care at this time of year.
Take a yoga class, call a friend, eat some comfort food or binge watch a season of your favorite series. Whatever it is, do something that makes you happy. Fill your cup with things you love and you’ll be less tempted to reach for alcohol or drugs.
4. Create New Holiday Traditions
From Uncle Harry’s famous eggnog to grandma’s classic mulled wine, special alcoholic drinks are cherished holiday traditions in many families. But they also make staying sober during the holidays challenging.
So instead of trying to fight off temptations from old holiday traditions, why not create some new, sober ones? Cook a special family recipe and deliver it to friends, volunteer at a homeless shelter or reach out to a newcomer at a 12-step meeting.
There are so many ways to feel the holiday spirit that don’t require alcohol or drugs. Spend time brainstorming some options for brightening someone’s day and you’ll be surprised how many you can come up with.
5. Increase Support
Almost everyone gets overwhelmed by the craziness of the holiday season. So before you get sucked into party invitations and gift-buying, figure out how to prioritize your 12-step support in November and December.
This could mean bookending a holiday party with phone calls to someone in recovery, attending 12-step meetings daily or finding a 12-step meeting to attend if you’re traveling out of town.
La Fuente Hollywood Treatment Center Is Here If You Need Help Staying Sober During the Holidays
At La Fuente Hollywood Treatment Center, we’re confident that these tips will help you stay sober during the holiday season. But we understand how difficult it can be to navigate holiday celebrations sober. We’re here if you need help.
We know spending the holidays in treatment isn’t the most tempting option, but checking into a program before the new year will help you avoid the many triggers and temptations this season brings.
We’ve also noticed that those who start treatment during the holidays have a better chance of getting into their program of choice. Those who wait until January to get help are often put on a waiting list. January is a time when people feel burned out from the holidays or commit to New Year’s resolutions.
So if you’re serious about living a life of sobriety, the intake staff at La Fuente Hollywood Treatment Center is ready to take your call. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to answer your questions and determine the best treatment program for you.
From Manny and the entire La Fuente team, we wish you and your loved ones a joyous holiday season.