Dog tangled up in christmas lights

If you are early in your sober journey, the holidays can be a daunting process. However, millions of people successfully make it to January 1st each year with their sobriety intact – and they have fun getting there. Following a few best practices can help you navigate the holidays successfully and start the New Year even stronger in your recovery.

It’s Okay to Just Say No

Office parties, family gatherings, neighborhood celebrations, New Year’s Eve with friends – your first go-round of staying sober during the holidays may require you to skip annual events that involve open bars or a heavy focus on alcohol consumption. You are free to skip a year and focus on yourself, specifically on your health and well-being. The best way to manage triggers is to avoid them altogether, especially early in recovery. Keep building on your recovery foundation and reevaluate the party invites next year.

Have a Party Plan

If you do attend a party where drinks are served, prepare yourself for the event. Walk through potential party scenarios and how you will react. Plan your arrival and departure, who you will spend time with – and who you will not. Bring your own or select a festive nonalcoholic option, and have an exit or even escape strategy if you start to feel anxious. Make sure y own ou have your own transportation so that you can leave quickly if you feel uncomfortable. Call your sponsor before the party and walk through the plan. And, bring the address of the nearest AA meeting, just in case. Having a plan will help you stay focused on your desired outcome.

Treat Yourself

Celebrate your sobriety by indulging in the best that the holiday season has to offer – in moderation. Enjoy the sweets and comfort foods. In addition to the gift of recovery, give yourself the gift of a spa day, new shoes or tickets to a holiday performance or movie. Bring friends from your recovery community. Be sure to take care of your emotional and physical health by getting regular exercise. You will feel good and work off those extra Christmas calories.

Treat Someone Else

Skip the party and head out to help others. There are countless opportunities to serve your community during December. Homeless shelters, recovery programs, community toy drives – volunteer to help others this season and stay out of your head. Participate in charitable giving or adopt someone who could use some holiday hope and cheer. Use the opportunity to engage deeper into your AA or recovery support group. Keep a check on your sober friends and offer support. Do something that is good for humanity and your recovery this season.

Maintain Your Recovery Routine

Be sure to stay on your schedule as best you can. The holidays can throw schedules into chaos. Be mindful to keep your meeting schedule, church if you attend, and self-care routine including meditations or workouts. Keeping your daily routine on track will help you stay focused on recovery. Stay connected to your sponsor and recovery community.