How to Plan for a Sober Holiday Season

Nov 22, 2023

Winter is around the corner. The leaves have changed and fallen, the plants have shriveled up, and one may soon be met with frigid air. Many individuals may have difficulty coping with seasonal depression. This can be due to a gradual decrease in sunlight leading one to feel cooped up and demotivated. The winter holiday season can be tricky to navigate due to frequent holiday gatherings. Celebrating a sober holiday season can be a positive silver lining for those facing challenges with unwanted triggers that come with the seasonal transition. 

For example, Thanksgiving can be a time for self-reflection on past treatment with Renaissance Ranch. Staying consistent and using the skills learned in treatment can help one effectively plan for a sober holiday season and safely respond to triggers.

Challenges During the Holiday Season

Life directly after addiction treatment can be a challenging time for some individuals. This can be especially so for those who are having problems coping with a dual diagnosis. Knowing early recovery can be troublesome, it is common for some individuals to have difficulty managing unwanted triggers at any stage in their life after treatment. The holiday season can be a fun time for family, friends, and loved ones to gather together and celebrate for months.

Many individuals look forward to fun festivities to come, but for those with a history of addiction and mental health disorders, this can be a time of concern. During the holidays, many individuals are more prone to excessively spend on gifts or party favors. Planning to reunite with loved ones can bring on a great deal of emotional or financial stress. This can often lead one to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. 

Typically, at adult events, many individuals commemorate with hard cider, eggnog, or mixed alcoholic beverages to spice up the evening during the holidays. Although this may be true, remembering to use the skills learned in treatment when met with unwanted triggers can help one appropriately cope without repeating bad habits during the holiday season.

Planning an Enjoyable, Sober Holiday Season

Despite the sun being hidden by dark clouds, shorter days, and unwanted triggers, planning a sober holiday season can be a fun outlet!  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the holiday season can be a very busy time of the year. Therefore, there may be a sudden lack of support available during such a vulnerable time. It can be normal for some individuals to feel the urge to mentally escape by choosing the one activity that brings them relief. A few ways to plan for a sober holiday season may include: 

  • Limiting or avoiding environments with alcohol or drugs
  • Taking time to reflect on sobriety goals
  • Incorporating healthy self-care practices into everyday life
  • Reaching out for additional support in time of need
  • Donating, volunteering, or helping loved ones
  • Developing an exit strategy

How to Effectively Communicate Sober Boundaries During the Holiday Season

Although it is common for many to mask their problems with substances, when one chooses this approach they are at an increased risk of committing an unexpected overdose. Taking the sober skills learned in treatment and putting them into action when being met with unwanted triggers can be an effective way to maintain long-term abstinence. Effective ways to respond to triggers without sharing personal business include: 

  • Setting clear sober boundaries
  • Bringing non-alcoholic beverages to the event
  • Simply saying “No, thank you.”
  • Being direct, open, and honest
  • Discussing travel concerns

Fun Abstinent Activities for a Sober Holiday Season

If attending mainstream holiday events may be outside the individual’s comfort zone, there are several different sober activities one may want to explore to safely enjoy the holidays. Instead of staying in and missing out, taking time to brainstorm alternative activities can make for a healthy channel. Some may feel hesitant to participate in sober community events for fear they will not know anyone. This can be a great opportunity to make new, healthy, sober connections with like-minded individuals. An individual may find peace by bringing a close friend to accompany them. 

Different sober activities to partake in during the holidays may include: 

  • Hosting a sober Christmas party
  • Having a holiday movie marathon
  • Hosting a sober Friendsgiving on Thanksgiving
  • Organizing a baking session with loved ones
  • Visiting a local apple orchard
  • Playing trivia and board games
  • Walking a morning holiday parade
  • Attending holiday alumni events

Establishing Consistency by Reflecting on Past Treatment

Staying consistent with Renaissance Ranch’s sober living skills can be an effective way to maintain long-term sobriety, especially during the holidays. Based on a study by Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, when an individual does not follow a structured routine and is left with unoccupied time, they may be more apt to engage in previously bad habits. Thus, there is a need for complete regularity to maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol. 

To develop healthy habits, keeping strong consistency is typically required to achieve positive results when met with unwanted triggers during the holidays. Establishing consistency with The Band of Brothers Alumni Network at Renaissance Ranch can be a great way to gain new information and develop the confidence needed while in recovery.

Our treatment plans at Renaissance Ranch are based on individual and dietary needs and include group, individual, and family-oriented systems of care, trauma-informed therapy, and robust lifetime alumni and aftercare programs. We are ranked among the best in the nation for our success in bringing those through recovery. Our support for our patients doesn’t end when they complete their stay at our program. The Band of Brothers program helps establish a foundation and culture of sobriety that permeates every facet of the alumni’s life. We spare no time or expense to keep guys connected day in and day out with other men who know what it’s like to struggle with alcoholism and addiction. Call us at (801) 308-8898.