How to stay sober during the holiday season

Wed, 11/15/2023 - 11:00am

Thanksgiving is the kick-off of the holiday season. Between now and New Year’s Day, there can be numerous celebrations for many families and individuals. Yet, this time of year is associated with increased alcohol use and even, for some, recreational drug use. Unfortunately, celebration and indulgence lead to alcohol or drug-related consequences. 

This can pose a challenge for anyone staying sober during Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season. Fortunately, there are practical sobriety tips anyone can use and information to help someone who could be struggling with addiction. 

Statistically, the highest rates of binge drinking in Maine are seen among 18- to 24-year-olds and 25- to 24-year-olds. Roughly one in three within these age groups report high-risk drinking within the past month. Alcohol is also one of the most used substances by underage adults in the state. 

Sobriety over the holiday season should not be an uphill battle; consider some of the following pointers.

Come up with a plan to stay sober over the holidays. Most temptation to drink or use drugs arises because of anxiety, depression, and feeling overwhelmed during this time of year.

Chaos and unpredictability, for example, create triggers that lead to relapse. The holiday season can be filled with random chaos, especially for large families. Come up with a plan before the festivities. What are you going to do? Where will you go? Who will you spend it with? A little planning goes a long way. 

Or, consider hosting your own Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving gatherings with friends or family. Let people know ahead of time that you are not drinking. Taking control of certain things does reduce stress.

When attending any family or friend gatherings, bring non-alcoholic beverages or mocktails. Invite a friend to attend with you as added support.

Additionally, don’t forget your coping skills and identify relapse triggers. Plan your exit before you arrive if things begin to go sideways. It’s a good idea to have some support in place.

In contrast, suppose you notice someone struggling with their sobriety; do not brush it aside as just the stress of the holidays. Offer a helping hand, provide resources for help, be supportive, and avoid casting judgment. There is so much stigma associated with addiction and sobriety, and this prevents people from asking for help. Remove this stigma by showing compassion and understanding.

Take this time of year to create new memories and sober traditions. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, do not wait until the new year to get help; take advantage of available resources.

Michael Leach has spent most of his career as a healthcare professional specializing in Substance Use Disorder and addiction recovery. He is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant and contributor to the healthcare website Recovery Begins