-Mayah Taylor, MA
One of the hardest challenges to overcome for an individual recovering from addiction is navigating through social situations while maintaining their sobriety. For the newly sober individual, navigating through social situations is especially challenging. The holidays present a unique challenge for those who are trying to protect their sobriety as often during the holidays individuals are exposed to alcohol. For the newly sober person or even the more seasoned person in recovery, attending holiday events where there is heavy presence of alcohol can seem impossible or at the very least intimidating. Prior to attending an event or upon considering attending a holiday event your brain might be invaded with unhelpful, negative thoughts like: “how on earth am I going to stay sober!?”; “everyone is going to think I’m boring for not drinking”; or “I’m going to have no fun without alcohol”. But the truth of the matter is, there are ways that you can attend holiday events sober, enjoy yourself, and spend time with friends and family. Continue reading to learn ways you can stay on the path of sobriety while attending holiday events.
Planning ahead once you receive an invite to a holiday event from friends and family will probably be the most helpful thing you do when trying to ensure your sobriety while attending the event. You should be considering things like where the event is being held and who will be there to determine best course of action for how you will handle this social situation. Knowing your triggers and your strengths can be a big help in creating your game plan.
This can often be a difficult step to take for some. It also can be overwhelming at times to have these conversations especially if you’re newly sober as it requires a significant amount of transparency and honesty when approaching a loved one which may be uncomfortable or have you feeling out of your comfort zone. Once you take this step though, you will find that it can be a game changer for the outcome of the event. You will also find that by having these conversations with loved ones can assist the loved one in becoming an ally to you during holiday events where peer or family social pressure to drink can get out of hand. Having that support and ally can help you stay on the path of sobriety during these social situations. You may have questions about how to begin these conversations, what to say, and when to have a conversation. If you know that you are attending a holiday event with friends and/or family, it’s a good idea to approach your friend or family ahead of the event. When approaching your loved one, you can start the conversation by saying something like: “Hi. I wanted to take the time to make you aware of something that is important to me prior the party. I am sober and my sobriety is very important to me…” You can tailor this statement how you like or to your comfort but the important thing is that from this statement you can then follow up with other statements that discuss more about how your loved one can help whether that be asking your loved one especially if they are the host of said party to eliminate alcohol from the menu, asking them to store the alcohol away from plain sight, asking your loved one to include alcohol alternatives like mocktails, or even coming up with activities for the event that will keep you engaged but also take the focus away from alcohol. It’s important to have these conversations with loved ones as friends and family don’t always fully understand that a person is in recovery from alcohol and what that means to the person in recovery.
It’s the dreaded social situation when trying to maintain your sobriety at a holiday party. People coming up to you trying to hand you a drink or questioning you about why you are not drinking. It can be so uncomfortable at these times for the sober party attendee. As stated before, it is best to plan ahead for social events where you know alcohol is served and everyone will be partaking so that you can anticipate specific social situations like this where others are trying to persuade you to drink or questioning you about being sober. There’s different types of responses you can have to someone offering you a drink. On one hand you can be straight forward and simply state “No thanks. I do not drink” or “No thanks. I am in recovery from alcohol and I do not drink.” Most of the time, the conversation will stop there. People don’t know how to respond to those statements. On the other hand, if you don’t feel comfortable speaking about your sobriety with just anyone, that’s okay too. Alternative responses that can be given can include:“No thanks, have to be up early tomorrow”;“It’s better for my health if I don’t drink right now”; “I have such a bad reaction to alcohol. I’ll stick with sparkling water”; “I’m the designated driver tonight.” There’s no one right way to respond to those offering you a drink, but be sure to do what makes you feel most comfortable.
If all else fails and the party is too triggering to you where you feel you may break your sobriety or if other party goers won’t leave you alone about not drinking and you begin to feel uncomfortable or not in control, having an exit plan can also help you out. Your exit plan doesn’t have to be elaborate, it can be as simple as letting the host and preferred family members know that you need to leave and ask that they respect and support your decision to leave.
Remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Having a trusted friend or family member who understands your sobriety and will have your back attend a holiday event with you can be a great support. They can also help you maintain your sobriety as well as hold you accountable. They can also help you out when encountered by pushy party goers that are persistent to put a drink in your hand. Another healthy option of support can be having a trusted friend or family member to call when you feel out of control at a party or feeling very vulnerable. You can also attend a support group like AA prior to attending a holiday event to build up your support. Make sure you have solid supports in place before venturing into these social situations.
Holiday events can be intense for the person in recovery. There are so many unique challenges to overcome when trying to attend these events, enjoy yourself, and still maintain your sobriety. Doing so requires awareness and the ability to balance everything. Planning ahead for these events including being aware of the place of the event, who will be in attendance, having valuable support systems on hand, having an exit strategy if needed, and being willing to discuss your sobriety and what that means to your loved ones beforehand is crucial to success when trying to attend a holiday event sober. Let us know what you think. What tips and tricks have you learned from your experiences? Comment below or on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. We read your comments and it helps direct our future posts!
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