Tips for Enjoying a Sober Holiday Season With Friends And Family

Tips for Enjoying a Sober Holiday Season With Friends And Family

What holidays are most difficult to get through drug or alcohol free?

You are probably wondering why I am writing about the holidays and holiday sobriety in April. We are still many months away from the usual collection of holidays that challenge many American who are trying to avoid drugs or alcohol.

Yet, I believe that planning ahead is a major key to being successful in enjoying a sober holiday season, especially when it relates to addiction recovery. Substance abuse or excessive alcohol use does not have to ruin your holidays this year.

We start off the “holiday season” with the Halloween parties in October and family gatherings for Thanksgiving in November. Then, in December, we see the end of the year out with a bang, from Christmas parties to New Years Parties.

It is true that these can be the most challenging times to avoid alcohol especially. Coworkers and loved ones alike want to see you indulging in having a few drinks, just like everyone else. Staying sober during the holidays can be a challenge.

The social pressure to drink is almost like a cultural or societal pathology. How is it normal for people to put pressure on someone to intoxicate themselves?

In addition to the usual social pressures, there are also emotional triggers associated with the holiday season for many people. And, our most recent holiday tradition has been strangely altered by the addition of the COVID 19 pandemic.

As we progress into the twenty-first century, we, as a society, have become more aware of how we infringe on the rights and freedoms of specific groups. We learn to change our language and take down offensive public monuments.

Schools learn to teach children to see the world from a new perspective. There are many kinds of people who deserve our respect, and they deserve not to be insulted or harmed.

What about people who have struggled with addiction to drugs or alcohol? Why do we allow the stigma to continue? Why is there such a deep misunderstanding of this mental health condition? Addiction is a treatable form of mental illness, not a moral failing.

How is it that we all accept that we cannot ask for peanuts on an airplane anymore because someone might have a peanut allergy, but it is fine to pressure a coworker at the office party to just have one drink? Should alcohol even be served at such a party?

In our airplane example, the attendants do not walk up and down the aisles, attempting to call out and shame the people with nut allergies. The airline corporations have simply accepted that the risk is too great to expose the public to peanuts, and a nut allergy is private, protected health information.

The best sober holidays tip: avoid holiday parties altogether.

If you are used to going with the flow and showing up every year to the same dinners and parties where everyone is drinking, this may seem like a revolutionary idea. But, when you really think about it, it makes sense. Why should you go?

Holiday parties are mostly a waste of time. During the past year of the COVID 19 pandemic, we have learned that many traditions in everyday life can be discarded with minimal or no consequences.

People work from home now, and they have meetings and go to conventions from home as well. Bars have been shut down much of the year and there have been few large gatherings, including office parties and family gatherings.

Everyone seems to be getting along fine without walking around a crowded room for hours with a drink in their hand. It turns out that drinking in a loud room full of people you don’t especially want to spend time with is a non-essential activity.

You can say no to anything that you do not want to do, and especially anything that you believe might harm you. There is no holiday office party or family gathering that you must attend.

What if you cannot avoid holiday gatherings and alcoholic beverages?

While the ideal is that you are able to take control of your life and say no to anything that makes you uncomfortable, it is sometimes easier said than done. Getting to that point may mean working towards gaining more control in your life and possibly attending therapy sessions to learn how to deal with family members and personal issues.

Sometimes, the pressure placed on a person by family or employer can be considerable. Especially, in certain cultures, gathering for alcoholic drinks is a fundamental component.

You may be worried about your job security or missing out on important informal meetings that occur at the bar after work. Or, important business meetings may involve going to dinner with a client and having a glass of wine. When it comes to family, it can be very difficult to say no to showing up at thanksgiving or other holiday gatherings.

Of course, it is possible to design your life over time to have more control. You can plan towards starting your own business where no one can tell you what to do in order to keep your job. You can also work on developing more independence from family and developing strong boundaries, so people close to you cannot pressure you to engage in activities that are harmful to you.

How can drinking alcohol be controlled in the short term?

There are many articles about strategies to bring with you to the party to be prepared not to drink. While these articles have many excellent tips to stay sober during the holidays, they may not be entirely realistic in many situations. It is great to plan for success, but when you are thrown out onto the battlefield, it is important to be as prepared as possible.

If you have tried everything to stop drinking and avoid alcohol at holiday parties and holiday family gatherings, and nothing seems to work, it may be time to try something else. There is a medical treatment to help people who are gray area drinkers or people with alcohol use disorder that can be highly effective in helping people to get their drinking under control.

Now, if you have been involved in the world of Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-step recovery, you may not like the idea of getting drinking under control. You may believe that abstinence, quitting all drinking at once and for good, is the only way. Yet, you also have likely witnessed many people who have great difficulty in stopping. Even if it works for you, that does not mean that it will work just as well for everyone else.

There is a modern philosophy in the treatment of addiction and alcoholism that is known as “harm reduction.” Harm reduction means meeting people where they are at and helping them to reduce the danger of self-harm from addiction-related activities.

For example, while the ideal for heroin-addicted people on the streets would be to quit immediately and never use heroin again, this is only realistic for some people, but certainly not all people. If abstinence-based treatment ideals worked well, there would not be nearly as much drug and alcohol use as there is in the world.

The stages of overcoming addiction have been studied and are well-defined. The first stage involves not being ready at all to make a change. Addiction is a powerful force in the lives of people who are susceptible to it. Telling someone to quit for their own good rarely works.

In the case of heroin addiction, some countries have implemented supervised consumption sites where people can come to use heroin under supervision in a safe and clean environment. Drug paraphernalia, such as syringes, needles and other supplies, are provided.

The staff is prepared to take action to prevent drug overdoses. And, most importantly, the staff forms relationships with the clients. They get to know them and build trust so the people who attend the site feel safe in asking for help when they are finally ready.

For alcohol, the situation is different. Alcohol is a social drug that is used legally and routinely in many places. Yet, there is an effective medical treatment that can be considered a form of harm reduction to prevent excessive, dangerous alcohol use.

What is pharmacological extinction? How does it work?

There is a medical harm reduction method for controlling alcohol use that is known as The Sinclair Method, or TSM. It is also referred to as a pharmacological extinction protocol because of how it works. It is a surprisingly effective form of alcohol addiction treatment.

TSM involves a doctor prescribing the medication, naltrexone. Naltrexone is an opioid receptor blocking drug that helps people who drink alcohol to modify their drinking behavior over time. When taken properly, the medication helps the patient to limit their drinking and to lose interest in alcohol with each drinking session.

While it seems simple and straightforward, it is important to see a knowledgeable doctor who can provide proper instructions and guidance to follow the protocol correctly. When properly implemented, the patient is able to restrict their alcohol use to a single drink during a 24-hour period. And, as the obsessions and compulsions around alcohol fade away, the patient will drink less often.

How does this help at a holiday party or family gathering around the holidays? Usually, the pressure to have at least one drink can be very intense. For some reason, unfortunately, it bothers people to see an attendee of the event walking around and not touching any alcohol at all. However, there is rarely pressure to continue drinking throughout the night.

At business dinners, family dinners, and office parties, if you sip at a glass of wine or beer, or whatever they are serving, you will most likely not be pressured to keep going. The people around you feel comfortable seeing everyone having a drink in front of them, but no one wants to see anyone get drunk.

I understand that there are toxic situations where friends or family do want to see you get drunk and out of control. If this is the case, regardless of the way you choose to deal with your issues with alcohol, you really must avoid these people. When someone pressures you to intoxicate yourself, they are clearly an enemy who wants to see your life destroyed. Avoid these people and their events at all costs.

If you are interested in learning more about how to start The Sinclair Method, please visit our contact page. Learning how to do The Sinclair Method is not difficult, but it is important to do so under medical supervision.

What do I do if I just got out of rehab and I have to go to a holiday party?

If you have just completed at least one month in residential rehab, most likely, you are abstinent and you have no intention of drinking. Rehabs work very well in the short term at helping people to stop drinking.

Going to rehab gives you a break from the real world. You have an opportunity to work with therapists and in group sessions to explore your drinking issue and what triggers you to go back to drinking.

Many rehabs also introduce their clients to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). These rehab programs employ a team member who acts as a 12-step facilitator.

12-step facilitation means that the facilitator introduces rehab clients to the program of AA and the philosophy of working the 12 steps. 12-step facilitation is considered to be evidence-based treatment because it has been studied and proven to work as far as getting people to attend meetings.

Unfortunately, getting someone to attend meetings after rehab is no guarantee of long-term success. At some point, the alcohol-deprivation effect sets in, leading to cravings for alcohol, sometimes months after quitting drinking.

Recovery during the holidays can be especially challenging. Getting out of rehab during the holiday season may take more vigilance than other times of the year.

Alcohol cravings can set in days, weeks, or even months after leaving rehab.

For some people, the reinforcement of sobriety by going to meetings and getting fully involved in the AA program works well, helping them to get through difficult times. The fact is that the success rate of rehab programs and 12-step programs is not very high.

For every person who makes it, sticking with sobriety long-term, there are at least several other people who relapse, going back to drinking again. That is due to the power of addiction and the overall lack of efficacy or the non-pharmacological approach to treating alcohol use disorder.

This does not mean that rehab is bad or that 12-step programs, such as AA, are bad. These programs do provide an excellent foundation for recovery. However, without the benefit of effective medication-assisted treatment (MAT), the success rates tend to be low.

An ideal situation would be a combination of MAT, rehab, and long-term group support. A strong network of relationships with supportive people can make all the difference.

So, if you are about to graduate from rehab, ask your program director or counselor about MAT. Do they offer naltrexone? Naltrexone is available in tablet form and in the form of a monthly injection, named Vivitrol.

Many rehabs do offer medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorder.

In fact, many rehabs do offer Vivitrol to interested clients. If you are in rehab, if your insurance covers it and your rehab offers it, you can get a Vivitrol injection before leaving rehab.

While some experts believe that the method of pharmacological extinction, where naltrexone tablets are taken while the patient still continues to drink, is more effective than Vivitrol, it is still worth it to ask for the shot when leaving rehab. When you go through rehab, you are already alcohol-free and it wouldn’t make sense to start drinking again just to try out The Sinclair Method.

Vivitrol will help to reduce alcohol cravings and it is helpful in the sense that you do not have to remember to take a daily tablet. One injection lasts for an entire month. It can be an excellent component of your relapse prevention strategy.

When you are confronted with the choice of going to a holiday event or family gathering where there will be alcohol, after leaving rehab, it is critical that you be as prepared as possible. You do not want to be in a situation where you throw away the money that has just been spent on and extended stay in residential rehab.

To be prepared to stay sober, the best option is to always skip the alcohol event. Not being around alcohol is the best defense against the temptation to drink.

If you feel that you cannot avoid going, at least you will be better prepared if your rehab has provided the Vivitrol shot. While Vivitrol is not a magic bullet that takes away all thoughts of drinking, it can help to reduce cravings.

On the other hand, if your rehab has not provided Vivitrol or naltrexone tablets, you should see a doctor about getting a prescription for naltrexone. If you are a candidate for treatment, you can have the tablets on hand and at least be sure to take it before going to such an event. Or, your doctor may ask that you take the naltrexone every day.

Of course, it is important to take prescribed medication as prescribed by your doctor. While it is fine to ask questions and suggest alternate treatment plans, once your doctor has formulated a medical plan for how you should take your prescription, you should follow that plan. If you have questions or problems, contact your doctor right away.

It is always possible that you have completed a rehab program, and they did not offer medication-assisted treatment in the form of naltrexone tablets or Vivitrol. And, possibly you are not able to get in to see a doctor about it or you have chosen not to see a doctor for MAT.

Always be prepared with a set of strategies to put barriers between you and alcohol.

If you do decide to go to an alcohol event during the holidays, while still in early recovery, after rehab, it is of the utmost importance to remain vigilant. Be prepared with a list of techniques to help you avoid drinking.

You can plan ahead to decide what you will drink. Whether it is a cola drink, orange juice, or grape juice, you can fit right in with the other party goers with your beverage glass which will look no different from the alcohol-filled glasses around you.

And, you can be prepared to call a friend for help if you are not feeling good about the pressure to drink. If you are involved in a support group program, you will be able to meet friends who are prepared to help you in supporting your sobriety. You may even have a 12-step sponsor and a sober buddy or two.

When you feel that you are in trouble, encountering a relapse trigger, call for help. The value of a quick conversation with a sober friend cannot be underestimated. Support from a sober companion or recovering addict is one of the best relapse prevention techniques.

If you are working with a concierge addiction doctor, you may even be able to text or call your doctor, even during the holiday event. If your doctor has expressed to you that you may call at any time, do not be afraid to call when you are worried about the temptation to drink caused by holiday stress.

Your doctor will be there for you when you need help, even if it is just to talk. One of the great benefits of addiction telemedicine services is that your doctor can be there for you anytime and anywhere to provide medical decision-making and, to some extent, act as your remote sober companion.

A day is just a day. Even major holidays are really just regular days.

Remember, the holidays are, when you come down to it, just regular days. There is really nothing special about one day compared to another. New Year’s Eve is just a regular day and New Year’s Day is also just a regular day.

A day is defined as a complete rotation of the Earth on its axis. The earth rotates at about 1000 miles per hour at the equator, and it takes about 24 hours for it to spin all the way around. This planetary rotation has been going on for billions of years, long before humans, office parties, and holiday family gatherings existed.

There is no reason that you should allow one day to affect you differently from any other day. In fact, the main reason that you may view days differently is from the outside pressure of society and the people around you.

You can take a step back and change your perspective, seeing the truth that a day is just a day. The sun comes up and then it goes down. Otherwise, any significance assigned to a specific day or date is simply social convention. You do not have to allow unhealthy social traditions to negatively affect you.

If you have to miss an office party or other holiday gathering so that you can avoid alcohol, don’t let it get you down. Any event is simply a planned gathering to be cleaned up within a few hours. There is no magic surrounding any party.

You can always skip the party. You are not missing anything.

At any such event, there is always a cleaning crew standing by to turn on the lights and clean up the mess at a predetermined time. People show up, drink for a few hours, and leave. And many of them will wish they had just stayed home.

It can take years for people to realize that they prefer sober living to the pointless, repetitive and harmful life of going out and drinking too much. Some people never get to that point, the stress of combining excessive drinking with every holiday celebration continuing indefinitely.

No matter what anyone tells you, nothing great happened at the party you missed. You will be fine, and there are much better ways to spend an evening than with a bunch of people who insist on drinking alcohol.

Enjoying a sober holiday is possible, and a great way to do it is with new friends who do not drink or use drugs. Sober events are becoming more popular in recent years. It is becoming cool to live a sober lifestyle.

Rather than focusing on missing out on long nights of pointless drinking, why not get involved in regular exercise. Physical activity and healthy eating are an important part of the recovery journey.

When it comes to holiday activities, why not spend time with people who enjoy simple, healthy activities, such as working on holiday crafts? There are so many ways to enjoy the holiday season that do not involve any drug or alcohol use.

Imagine how rewarding it would be to volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen? Being grateful and providing service to others are two of the best ways to push your addiction aside and enjoy a deeps sense of happiness and fulfillment.

Your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health are too important to allow unhealthy established traditions to cause you harm. You have the freedom and the right to make different decisions and live your life differently. You can redefine the holiday season to work in your favor and to better support your long-term health.