Merry Alternatives: How to Celebrate a Substance-Free Christmas

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A Sober Christmas

It’s here: tinsel, pine trees, wreaths, jingling bells—and perhaps an overwhelming sense of anxiety. That’s right: it’s the Christmas season. If you or a loved one aren’t struggling with sobriety, Christmas can be a joyous time. However, for many people this winter season, the holidays are a source of intense nerves.

If you are trying to live sober and find that Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any of the winter holidays are triggering, this is the post for you!

We’ll talk about all the ways to engage with the holidays that can help you move through the season with grace, control, and–universe willing–a bit of fun!

The 5-Step Personal Winter Season Survival Guide

Most of these steps are taken from Sober Bliss, which has many more tips to consider as well.

Step 1: Be as selfish as you’d like!

Now, don’t misunderstand: in this context, being “selfish” means protecting your time and energy. So, being selfish may mean rejecting every party invitation you receive this season. Or it may mean buying cookies instead of making them. Or spending less on gifts this year to protect your budget. Or not putting up a tree. Whatever holiday expectation is stressful for you, you have our permission to ignore it.

If the flurry of parties and events is a trigger for you, or if you know that you’ll be tempted to drink or use: don’t go. That social pressure you feel does not deserve your attention. Stay home and stay comfy if you’re feeling overwhelmed!

Step 2: Have an escape plan.

When you do end up going to a holiday function, make sure you have a foolproof escape plan, preferably one that involves a trusted and sober person in your life. You can let that person know that you’re struggling and need to leave, and often they’ll agree to “cover” for you, pick you up, call you pretending there’s an emergency etc. Whatever you do, have a plan in place even if you don’t think you’ll need it.

Step 3: Commit to self-care.

The temperature in Iowa right now is more than uncomfortably nippy. Take this cold front as the excuse to engage in self-care that warms the soul. Massages, manicures, pedicures, exercise classes, bubble baths: whatever you enjoy and can afford, do more of it! Use the money or energy that substance abuse once robbed you of to take care of yourself. Relaxing in your own way will ease any holiday-inflicted stress.

Step 4: Give back.

Sometimes the best way to get out of your own head is to focus on others. Being generous with people can trigger pleasure. At least, that’s what one German researcher found out when he identified a gene that prompts generosity. Wild…

Basically, volunteering your time, not necessarily even your money, can help you feel happier and more relaxed. In Iowa, there are a number of opportunities for volunteering and helping out the community. See what you can do to help today.

Step 5: Indulge, Baby!

If it’s edible, that is! That’s right, instead of drinking or using substances, a great way to pass the time is by cooking and baking. The holidays are a great excuse to try out new recipes. Good scents and yummy food are staples of these next few months. So take your mind off your troubles and lose yourself in the kitchen. Take a look here for some ideas and inspiration!

Tips for the Road to a Sober Christmas

We wrap up this little gift of a blog with some quick tips from Psychology Today’s “Happy Sober Holidays” article to weather the winter season.

  • Remember, before going to any type of event, to HALT. HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. If you feel any of those emotions or bodily responses, stay home.
  • When you do go out, avoid the topic of alcoholism or substance abuse by having a cranberry soda or club soda in hand. Any mocktail will do, too. No one will question whether or not you’re drinking if you’ve got a “drink” in hand.
  • For any obligatory events, dinners, work parties, birthdays, etc., come late and leave early. It’s not rude, it’s strategic!
  • “Bookend” any events. In other words, have something lined up in the way of an AA meeting or therapy session just before or just after wherever you’re going. This will help to keep you accountable.
  • Avoid bars altogether.
  • Dance the worry away. You don’t have to be Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing; just shaking your bum a bit can help distract you from making any bad decisions.

No matter how you’re feeling or what you’re facing this holiday season, just remember that you can get through it without substances. Of course, we’re here at St. Gregory Recovery Center whenever you need a little support. Contact us with questions, concerns, or to wish us happy holidays!

Are you or a loved one looking for drug and alcohol treatment in Iowa? To learn more about programs offered at St. Gregory Recovery Center, call and speak with someone today, at (888) 778-5833.

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