December 2018

Holiday Sobriety

By Scott Swanezy


The holidays, also known as the "Triple Crown", can be a fun time, but avoiding substances can put a damper on activities.  It's common for people to throw parties and serve alcohol or to have family gatherings that cause a great deal of stress.  Staying on your path of addiction recovery at this time of year can be a real challenge as you navigate these situations.  To get through this season successfully without relapsing, consider the following suggestions for staying sober during the holiday season.


Support is crucial to a person in recovery at any time of the year.  However, the holidays can be extra challenging.  Surrounding yourself with family and friends who love you and who are willing to help you remain sober will make things easier.  Don't be afraid to speak up and ask your close family and friends to help keep you accountable to your recovery.  Most importantly, do not isolate yourself.  This may only cause depression or relapse.


There are always several holiday parties you can attend during the holiday season, most of which will offer substances that you have worked hard at removing from your life.  Even though you have started recovery from addiction, you do not have to decline all the offers that you are given.  However, it is smart to choose the ones where alcohol will not be the center of attention.


Avoiding gatherings that provide the greatest temptations will make things easier for you.  Realizing that a few hours of partying are not worth ruining your sobriety is vital.  Make sure to arrive with a plan so that you can leave when the urge to use becomes too strong.  You should come with a trusted friend who will agree not to drink or use as well.  Make plans ahead of time not to rely on others for transportation.  This will keep you from getting into uncomfortable situations.


Although the holiday season is busy, it is not the time for you to take a vacation from your recovery process.  Besides surrounding yourself with family and friends, it is important to keep attending regular sobriety meetings, or maintaining contact with your support group.  Even if you are away from home for the holidays, it is possible to find and attend a local meeting in the area.  Support groups contain people who are going through the same challenges.  You can work together and help each other get through the holidays without relapsing.


Your recovery is like a rebirth.  A way to make the most of this gift is to give back.  Helping others during the holiday season is an effective way to remain sober as well.  Your community is probably looking for volunteers to help serve a meal to the hungry or to help deliver food to the homebound.  These activities will give you purpose and will make you feel good about helping others.  Lending a hand to other individuals is a way to show thanks for the people who have helped you along your sober journey.


Many recovering individuals are too confident in their ability to remain sober.  However, even the strongest person can succumb to temptation.  Do not think that it is possible to avoid relapsing when you are placing yourself in situations where alcohol or other substances are easily available.  If you are at a party or event where most people are getting buzzed, you will likely fall victim to relapse.  Although it is important to socialize during the holidays, it is vital not to make a habit of visiting bars or similar venues at this time of year.  Being honest with yourself about your struggle with addiction is one of the best ways to fight against yourself.


Exercise is known to release endorphins in the brain.  These endorphins make people feel happy and satisfied. This is why a person in recovery should establish a regular workout routine, especially during the holidays.  Also, exercise can help you to clear your mind and to escape the chaos that the holidays may bring.  Simply taking a walk to enjoy some holiday lights can improve your mood and keep you away from triggers that can harm your recovery.


If drugs or alcohol have haunted you for a long time and have prevented you from enjoying quality time with friends and family during the holidays, it may be nice to create new traditions.  Now that you have decided to live a sober life, you will be able to spend memorable time with your loved ones.  Host an alcohol-free get together with plenty of comfort food.  The holidays are a time for friends and family to slow down, share and reflect on the past year.  Maybe it is time for you to let go of the struggle and start the work of building a new life for yourself, and your friends and family.


Scott Swanezy is an addiction and substance abuse counselor in Westchester County. He can be reached at 914-434-9945 and visit for more information.



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