For many people, the Holidays bring unique stress that is hard to manage on our own, and can really interfere with attempts to enjoy time with loved ones, traditions, and other things that can be special otherwise. Around this time of year, one common stressor that people dread is asking themselves, “how can I manage to stay sober throughout all of this?” 

Countless reasons exist why it can be so difficult this time of year to manage sobriety and substance use. Alcohol in particular can be difficult given the societal encouragement and assumption anyone over the age of 21 will want to participate. Just like changing decorations, recipes for substance use can become festive, and for those who are trying to avoid participating, it can be exhausting figuring out how to do so. Below are some tips that may be helpful regardless of which substance you want to avoid or the social pressure you anticipate.

Be proactive: Planning ahead can be helpful. This may include identifying your limits and non-negotiables beforehand. If anticipating social pressure that makes it harder to decline invitations to drink, etc, prepare what you are comfortable sharing with that ultimately allows you to stick to your limits. In other words, consider ahead of time how you may say “no” . An extra tip is to keep this “planning ahead” general enough so it can apply to different scenarios. It can become more anxiety provoking and unhelpful to start planning what other people will say.

Use supports: This may be a trusted friend or loved one, sponsor, professional support, or 24/7 hotline. It can be most helpful to match what specifically you need help with to which support is most able to meet that need. For example, if you need someone to physically be with you, a loved one or sponsor may be more appropriate. If you are in crisis, a hotline or using professional support may be more beneficial.

Use self care: Before and after encountering triggers, use self care. This may mean the relaxing, fun parts of self care; it may also mean the mundane parts such as keeping a routine, sleeping regularly, eating healthy, etc. While it may be ideal if all aspects of self care are fun and enjoyable, it’s normal and okay for parts of self care to even be boring at times. Ultimately, it’s doing what you need to do for your own wellbeing. 

Write it down: If you expect to be encountering triggers to use drugs or alcohol, write down your top 3 safety plan needs. This may be the phone number for a sponsor or hotline, or a reminder of how you best cope. Identify what you find most helpful to stay sober, and have a written reminder. This takes the pressure off of having to remember “in the moment” , especially after encountering triggers to use.

Remind yourself of all the benefits you personally have experienced by staying sober. To take this a step further, write it down, and then once you finish your list, go back and continue identifying the benefits of each item already written down….it’s like creating a positive “domino effect”  and can draw out the benefits even more. Identifying the positives of something will make it easier and more motivating to continue doing that thing, in this case that’s staying sober.

Celebrate your success and use the strengths you already have, and remember there is always support and no need to go about this alone. Additional resources are below if you or someone you love is in need of support. 

24/7 Substance Use Hotline, confidential and free, can refer to local resources as well:   1-800-487-4889

24/7 Crisis line: 988

By: Elizabeth Pugliese, LCMHCA, ASA

Throughout December, we are focusing on how to manage holiday stress. If you or a loved one need professional support, our counselors at Mathews Counseling are available for appointments. Request your appointment today!

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