The holiday season can be especially difficult for people who are in recovery from addiction, as well as those who abstain from alcohol as part of a wellness plan. In addition to the added stress that the holiday season can bring, many holiday celebrations include alcohol. Eggnog, mulled wine, and champagne are all associated with various holiday celebrations, and avoiding the temptation of “holiday spirits” might require advance planning.
Is your WRAP prepared for the holiday season? WRAP for Addictions suggests that a WRAP should include a list of what to avoid (such as bars). Friends who participate in 12-step programs often talk about avoiding the “people, places, and things” that threaten their recovery. A WRAP can help tremendously with establishing daily and weekly routines that support abstinence. Your wellness tools may very well include declining invitations to events at which alcohol will be served.
However, when the holiday season rolls around, your usual wellness tools might not always be effective. It’s often more difficult to separate yourself from being around people who drink too much, places that serve alcohol, and parties at which drinking is the primary activity. You might need to attend your office party or that of your partner or spouse. You might be obligated to attend family celebrations at which alcohol will be served. What types of wellness tools will help you get through the season?
When I made the decision to stop drinking alcohol, I sought guidance on handling social situations. Most of the guidance I received has been very helpful. Here are some suggestions:
- The most important thing is to start with a simple “No, thank you.” Some people like to follow it with a quip, like “I’ve already drunk enough for one lifetime,” or “It’s a great party, and I’d like to remember it,” but these aren’t necessary. I’ve read articles that suggest making excuses, such as that you’re sick or that you are driving, but I disagree with that approach. You’re not obligated to explain why you are not drinking.
- Send nonverbal cues. If people are standing around with drinks, make sure that you have a non-alcoholic beverage in your hands. If you’re seated at a table where wine will be served, remove your wine glass. Bring sparkling non-alcoholic cider for toasts.
- Allow yourself an opportunity to leave early. If you find your level of comfort decreases as the festivities progress, you should have a plan to remove yourself early. If you’ve agreed to be the “designated driver,” make sure there’s a backup plan in case you need to leave before the other people in your group.
Do you have any strategies for maintaining recovery during the holiday season? Share them with us on our Facebook page.
Alan Marzilli, J.D., M.A., is a senior writer/program associate at Advocates for Human Potential (AHP). His work focuses primarily on homelessness, mental health and substance use disorder services, cannabis regulation, and employment services.