Christmas is a day of great religious significance to Christians. It has also become a celebratory occasion where people of all backgrounds gatherer together to shake off their winter blues. The festive season means plenty of parties and other events where alcohol is consumed.
Not everyone finds the holiday season to be such a joyful experience. It can be a particularly difficult period for those individual who are battling with an alcohol addiction. There is so much temptation at this time of the year. Such individuals may need to take precautions to ensure that they enjoy a sober Christmas. Those who are spending time in rehab over the holiday season can also find it a challenging time due to them missing family and friends.
Challenges to Sobriety at Christmas
Christmas can be a particularly challenging time for people who are in early recovery. As people mature in sobriety they become better at managing this time of year. They can then enjoy it fully without any need of alcohol. These are some of the challenges that people face at Christmas:
* Christmas can be a time of year that practicing alcoholics look forward to. There is a great deal of alcohol consumption going on over the holiday period and this is perfect conditions for the alcohol abuse. Even the behavior of a hardened drinker can appear normal during the festive season. When people become sober, they can remember how much they enjoyed drinking at Christmas. Some reminiscing may encourage them to romance the drink, and this can lead to relapse.
* At this time of year it is usual to bump into old acquaintances at social gatherings. If these people are still drinking, they may try to tempt the sober individual to rekindle their friendship over an alcoholic beverage. It can be hard to say no to such invitations.
* There are many parties and other drinking opportunities over the holiday period. There can be a great deal of pressure on people to indulge. Even those who generally do not touch alcohol will have a few glasses at Christmas. This means that there can be overwhelming pressure for those who are not yet comfortable with saying no.
* Christmas is a time when people can feel incredibly lonely, especially those who are estranged from their family. Loneliness is a dangerous emotion for people in recovery, because it can act as a relapse trigger. Such individuals may decide that life in recovery is unsatisfying or that they are unable to handle their negative emotions. They may view their only solution as a return to addiction.
* Some recovering alcoholics can find themselves enjoying watching other people consume alcohol. This type of activity may appear harmless, but it can actually lead the individual back into their addiction.
* Families are expected to come together over the holiday season. Such gatherings can be joyful, but they may also be incredibly stressful. Those who are newly sober can struggle when spending time so much time with relatives, particularly if they feel that their behavior is being judged in any way.
* At this time of year there can be a great deal of media promotion for alcohol consumption. Even family shows will have scenes where people are enjoying themselves while drinking.
* This is probably the most dangerous time of year for alcoholics and some of them do relapse. Those who return to alcohol may try to tempt other friends in recovery to join them.
* The build up to Christmas can be financially difficult for many people in recovery. If they have children they will need to buy presents. There might also be the expectation that they organize a Christmas meal. This can be difficult if people have not yet managed to sort out their finances.
How to Stay Sober Over Christmas
There are things that people in recovery can do to ensure that they remain sober over Christmas:
* This is a good time for the individual to put more effort into their sobriety. This could include such things as reading some recovery literature or spending time with one of the recovery communities online.
* There are many newly sober people with similar fears about the Christmas period. Such individuals can come together to offer each other support. This can occur online in the real world.
* Journaling over the Christmas period can be highly beneficial because it keeps the individual focused on their sobriety. A gratitude journal will remind the individual of the good things in their life that have arrived because of their recovery from addiction.
* The drinker has traditions that they look forward to over the holiday season. This could be something like drinking a few glasses of whiskey as they wrap presents. It is necessary for the sober individual to invent new Christmas traditions. These can become even more enjoyable than the previous self-destructive ones.
* Those individuals who belong to a fellowship like Alcoholics Anonymous can benefit from increasing their attendance at the meetings over the holiday period. This can also provide a nice opportunity to socialize and enjoy the Christmas build up. It is also a good idea to collect telephone numbers of other members, as these can be used if the pressures of the season become too much.
* If spending so much time with family is starting to feel a bit overwhelming, the individual will benefit from taking a break. Even something as simple as going for a walk can help.
* If people have a sponsor they will be able to rely on this person over the holiday period. The good thing about an AA sponsor is that they can offer one-to-one advice and support. Many sponsors are willing to allow their sponsee to contact them at any time of the day or night if there is an emergency. If people do not have a sponsor then they can still get contact details for people they contact in an emergency.
* Discussing concerns and fears with family members can be helpful. This will they will be more understanding. The problem is that many of the general public just assumes that once the individual quits their addiction, the problem is over. So it may be necessary to tell family members that things like Christmas can still be a challenge.
How to Handle Parties at Christmas
If people are newly sober it is best if they avoid getting into a situation where they are surrounded by people who are consuming alcohol. There is a saying in Alcoholics Anonymous, if you sit in a barber’s shop long enough you will eventually get your hair cut. What this means is that if you stay around drinkers for long enough, you will likely join them. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid such occasions. There are things that people can do to reduce the risk of problems when attending these parties:
* The most important factor in handling these occasions is to never take them lightly. Even those individuals who have been sober a few years can be overcome at a celebratory occasion where alcohol is served. The urge to drink can come from nowhere, and it can be intense. People need to be prepared for how they will react if such thoughts and cravings occur.
* It may be helpful if people practice saying no to alcohol before they attend the party. They can do this by using role play techniques. Some individuals can be particularly persistent when trying to get others to drink alcohol so it is best to be prepared for such people. There is no need to give a long-winded explanation for not drinking. This often only invites more questions. Sometimes the best solution is to just give a firm no and leaving it at that.
* Bringing along another sober friend in recovery can be of great benefit. It is vital that this other individual already has a strong sobriety. Otherwise, it would be putting their recovery at risk as well.
* It can also be beneficial if the individual brings along some recovery resources with them. Carrying around something like the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book might be a bit conspicuous, but modern technology makes it possible to have such resources discretely on your person. Having an iPhone or Android smart phone enables access many recovery apps. It is even possible to read the Big Book online.
* If people feel that they are in any risk of relapse, they should leave the party immediately. Those who are in AA will want to go straight to a meeting or call their sponsor. Those who do not belong to a fellowship can call a trusted friend or a therapist. The key thing is not to ignore the event.
Staying in Rehab over Christmas
Those individuals who are staying in rehab over Christmas can find that this is a time when they miss their family and friends. Many of these inpatient programs will take extra measures to ensure that clients get to enjoy some festive activities. This can include a special Christmas meal and even watching Christmas movies. Spending this holiday season in rehab can prepare the individual for the later joys of a sober Christmas.