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Many of us equate the holidays with gift giving.
As a matter of fact, the gift of sobriety is the most precious of them all. As such, our recovery must be fiercely protected against relapse during this notoriously festive season. First, though, we need to get into the right frame of mind.
Too often, someone newly sober worries about having such a bland, boring holiday season that it can’t possibly be fun without alcohol. While true that the former ways of enjoying the season must give way to a new version that doesn’t involve alcohol, it doesn’t mean we can’t still have a wonderful time.
If we find ourselves pining away for the partying of the past, we need to stop and shift our attitude. We can look forward to experiencing the holidays this year in a fresh, new way. With careful planning and some outside-the-box thinking, it is absolutely possible to enjoy the holidays without alcohol.
If we are in recovery, it is probably the case that alcohol played multifaceted roles in our lives. During the holidays, when stress levels are usually high, alcohol was likely used to help manage the stress. Dutifully attending job-related holiday events may not have been our cup of tea, so alcohol probably helped get us through them.
And then, of course, there were the holiday parties that gave us a green light to imbibe to our heart’s content.
Now that we are sober, it is necessary to find different ways to both endure and enjoy the holiday season. Celebrating the season without alcohol can actually be really enjoyable.
Consider trying some of these fun ideas. Here are eight ways to enjoy a sober holiday season:
1. Boat parades.
No matter where we reside, where there is a body of water there is probably going to be a holiday boat parade on the calendar. We can bring a thermos of hot chocolate or spiced apple cider, bundle up in blankets, and enjoy the stunning displays of Christmas lighting on the boats.
2. Sober meetups.
We can look for sober holiday activities and events. There are many websites that could help us find the nearest one, and we will be directed toward a large number of local sober meetup groups and holiday activities where new friends await.
3. Plan a potluck.
Whether the theme is traditional fare, vegan, or ethnic, why not host a dinner party and ask the guests to each bring a dish? We may add a white elephant gift exchange and some festive mocktails for extra holiday flair.
4. Regress to childhood fun.
We can gather some friends and enjoy some fun pastimes from our youth. Go ice skating, go-karting, attend a holiday fair or carnival, or go caroling in the neighborhood. If you’re a parent, these activities are even more fun with your kids. If not, find the kid inside and enjoy!
5. Scenic hikes.
We can organize a group nature hike or a bike ride, have everyone bring a picnic lunch, decide on a scenic route, and hit the trail with our sober friends for some fresh air and exercise.
6. Baking party.
We can invite some friends over and bake Christmas cookies and holiday treats. Everyone brings their recipe and the ingredients, with some copies of the recipe to share. We may put on some holiday music and get a fire roaring in the fireplace for added ambience while we indulge in the delicious treats!
7. Give back.
We can express our gratitude this season by giving back and looking for opportunities to be of service to others who are less fortunate. One of the ways to do so is to contact our local homeless center, food pantry, or church and ask how we can be of help. It is extremely rewarding to serve others, especially at this time of year.
8. Movie night.
It may involve having a group of friends over and binging on the favorite Christmas movies, one after the other, serving snacks, popcorn, and holiday treats and enjoying getting into the Christmas spirit via Hollywood.
Even with all those fun holiday activities, it is wise to remember that we will probably encounter some triggers during the season. Some smart strategizing keeps us on the offense.
We can use these tactics to help us avert a relapse during the holiday season:
1. Minimize stress.
The fast pace of the holiday season can be extremely stressful. In recovery, stress is not our friend. Relaxation techniques help us manage stress, such as deep breathing exercises, therapeutic massage, guided meditation apps, or signing up for some yoga classes.
2. Practice self-care.
Maintaining healthy lifestyle habits during the holidays will help us keep our mind focused on our recovery. We can take care of ourselves by getting plenty of quality sleep, sticking (mostly) to a nutritious diet, and carving out some time for reflection and journaling.
3. Stay active.
During the stressful holiday season, it is important to include regular exercise in our schedule. In addition to the physical health benefits, exercise also provides an array of mental health benefits, thanks to the production of endorphins and stress-reducing neurotransmitters. This leads to better sleep quality and a positive state of mind, which are much needed during the holiday season.
4. Practice mindfulness.
We can approach holiday events with a sense of mindful awareness and remain focused on the present moment, enjoying all the sensory delights of the season as a sober person, without becoming distracted by triggers.
5. Attend extra meetings.
Attending some additional recovery meetings during the season is protective against relapse, which comes in handy at a time when you need it most. The meetings can help keep us grounded in a recovery mindset amid so much distraction, and the fellowship can protect us from feelings of loneliness during the holidays.
With some creative thinking and a steadfast commitment to sobriety, it is absolutely possible to have a safe, sober, and fun holiday season.
Don’t be surprised if you end up creating some new holiday traditions in the process.