A guide for the newly sober to thrive this holiday season

For people in recovery, the holidays can be dicey. People who are newly clean and sober may be seeing their families for the first time since they stopped drinking and using. Those who work may be navigating the office Christmas party. Others may be spending time in places or with friends who they used to get high with. These situations can bring up a lot of strong emotions and triggers. 

This can lead to relapse. But it can also be a terrific opportunity to dig into your recovery, practice self-care and self-kindness, and learn a new way of being. 

I want to offer a few suggestions that can help you not just survive, but thrive this holiday season.

1.    Be mindful. Relapse doesn’t just spontaneously happen. A lot of people relapse in January and February as the result of a seed that was planted during the holidays, after being exposed to lots of drinking and partying. Make sure to check in with yourself and notice if you’re feeling triggered or craving drugs and alcohol.

2.    Lean on your sober support network. If you realize you’re feeling triggered, pick up the phone! If you go to twelve-step or other recovery meetings, make sure to connect with your new sober family. The people who have sober or clean time all have experience and wisdom about what to do this time of year. This can also be a great opportunity to establish new holiday traditions with other people on the path of recovery.

3.    Choose foods that support your recovery. Especially during the holidays, many people turn to sugary desserts and coffee to replace the rush of drinking or using. Unfortunately, these foods actually intensify your cravings down the road, and weaken your defense against relapse. Instead, you can make some favorite dishes and desserts from The Malibu Beach Recovery Diet Cookbook :). These also tend to be big hits at social gatherings and fun to share.

4.    Be gentle with yourself. Celebrating with family and friends is a wonderful thing. But give yourself permission to take it easy and trust your gut. It’s okay to leave if the heavy drinking starts or you start to feel overwhelmed. You’re trying something new—take it at your own pace.

5.    Practice gratitude and pass it on. You’ve put a lot of work into getting clean and sober. Take time to acknowledge that and to honor yourself and everyone who helped you along the way. Reach out to other sober people or those struggling to get there and offer your love, support and service.

Here’s to a new year and the birth of a new life full of possibilities! 

Joan Borsten