Stay Clean and Sober This Christmas and New Year

For some people in recovery, the Christmas & New Year periods can be tough. But YOU CAN make it through with your sobriety intact. You dont have to let unfulfilled expectations, stressful family dynamics, or difficult in-laws/relationships threaten your recovery. Not to mention all the parties.

You just need a bit of preparation. Start planning your stay clean/stay sober strategy now, with these tips.


1. Remind yourself every single morning how good it feels to be clean and sober (and how great you will feel once its all over).

Plant that thought in your mind right now, and think about it every morning. Stick a note on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself to think about it every day


2. Keep your expectations realistic, so you dont set yourself up for an emotional breakdown. 

Getting clean and sober doesnt mean life is instantly perfect. Other people in your life probably havent changed, and many of the conflicts that crop up within families will doubtless crop up again. Accept it, roll with the difficulties, and rein in your urge to manipulate everything and everyone. It will be enough for you to take care of and manage yourself.


3. Plan activities other than sitting around and chatting.

In many families, getting together for the Xmas break means sitting around and drinking. Investigate other options now. Movies, holidays, walks, and any other events can all help fill the time and limit stress. If the weather keeps you inside, suggest activities that will keep everyone busy and focused.


4. Limit the amount of time you spend with relatives who make you restless and anxious.

If everyone is gathering for the Xmas holiday, including your brother who drinks like a fish, plan on an overlap of just a day or two. If he arrives on Xmas Day and stays a week, you can arrive a couple of days before Xmas, help your hosts/family prepare, enjoy a quiet Christmas Eve, and leave the next day.


5. If youre traveling, go to meetings wherever you are. 

Find a meeting long before you get there. This will give you the good level of support youll almost certainly need – the chance to say,  “I love my family, but sometimes they drive me up the wall,” or to talk about whatever else it is that almost drives you to stress and think of drinking.


6. If the Xmas holidays mean visiting your old hometown, take time to see old friends you enjoy, avoid those you used to drink or use drugs with. 

Make plans now for how youll occupy your time while there, so you dont find yourself with time on your hands and fleeting thoughts of visiting the people who are still drinking or using.


7. Remember the recovery process youre in.

If youre following your progress remember where you are in recovery. If youre in early recovery, you are bound to be a bit nervous/apprehensive. Dont push yourself or leave yourself open to temptation. Its okay to have a quiet Xmas & New Year period.


8. Do a Recovery plan before the Xmas holidays start. 

Think about whats coming up in the next few weeks. The situations could lead you to relapse? Seeing your ex at a party? An argument with a loved one? Dinner with friends who drink? Make a plan now for how you will deal with this, and plan to call your sponsor or a fellowship friend if anything does happen(Better still before it happens!) Or maybe youll investigate online meetings now, beforehand, so you can go to a meeting at a moments notice.


9. If youre flying/traveling and feeling vulnerable, ask for help.

Planes dont have no alcohol” sections, so the person right next to you might order something alcoholic. What do you do? Ideally, fly with someone you know, someone who knows you are in recovery and will avoid drinking during the trip. If youre flying alone If you do get stuck next to a drinker, if you feel the need, close your eyes and meditate. Put your headphones on and zone out to music or a meditation recording. If you have Wi-Fi on the plane, contact a friend in recovery for support. Another idea, If you worry youll be tempted to stop at a bar on the way to the airport or inside the terminal, have a friend or your sponsor drop you off at the airport and then stay in touch with you via phone or text until you get on your plane and the cabin door is shut.  


10. Plan your own celebrations.

If you arent going traveling for the Xmas & New Year period, plan to celebrate with local AA or NA friends. If you havent been invited, do the invite yourself.


11. Take it easy!

Get plenty of rest, watch what you eat, get your usual exercise, and take time for meditation. Maintain your recovery routine as much as possible.


12. Dont romance the drink or drug.

If everyone starts talking about the good old days,” leave the room. You dont want to start thinking about your drinking or using days. That can lead to preoccupation and obsession, and then to cravings. Keep your focus on your life right now, your life in recovery.


13. Be very careful about what you eat and drink.

Alcohol doesnt come only in a glass or a bottle. It can come in bowls and plates, too. And what you dont know can hurt you. One reason, of course, is that even a small amount of alcohol can trigger a relapse. How much does it take? A tiny drop? A small glass? There is no definitive answer, so its best to avoid all alcohol and keep your risk as low as possible. Another reason is the psychological risk. The taste plus the thrill” of knowing that youre consuming alcohol could turn into a compulsion to drink. Remember, the addiction is in the person, not the substance, its critical to stay away from that dangerous area of guessing what might be risky for you.


14. Bring recovery readings when you travel.

Have the Big Book and other recovery literature on your iPhone or iPad before you leave to travel. Download some inspirational recovery talks as well.


15. Practice TAMERS every day.

  • Think about recovery, Talk about recovery
  • Act on recovery, connect with others
  • Meditate and Minimise stress
  • Exercise and Eat well
  • Relax
  • Sleep


16. Make a plan for dealing with cravings.

Write up a list of what works for you: calling someone, reading recovery books, a quick workout at the gym, prayer. Think about what has worked for you in the past and be sure you are ready with some solutions. If you really cant think of anything, tell yourself to stay sober for just one minute. Then two minutes. Then start doing something (anything; wash the dishes, read the news), and set your alarm for five minutes. When youve managed to get through five minutes, go for ten. Keep increasing the time. Tell yourself you only need to focus on not drinking or using right now, this minute, this hour, this day.


17. Remember that being in recovery doesnt mean instant heaven or a perfect life.

Coming to grips with the idea that clean time/sobriety is not instant heaven is an important step in recovery. Most people with alcoholism/ addiction expect their upside-down world to immediately turn right side up. That rarely happens. If youve been misusing alcohol or drugs for a while, your brain may need several months or even longer to set itself right. Give yourself time to build a happy new life.


18. Its okay to tell people you are now in recovery.

There is a lot less stigma these days to being in recovery. Nearly everyone knows someone who is in recovery and is very open about it. Its your choice whether or not you want to tell people. One good reason to be open about it is, If your friends dont know youve given up alcohol or drugs they may offer you drinks or drugs without intending to lead you to a relapse. Another reason is that when you let it be known that you dont drink or use anymore you offer support and encouragement to others who are thinking about sobriety but are afraid to take the leap. You just might be the catalyst that gets someone else started on recovery.


19. Make a plan for staying clean & sober at parties. 

Decide & tell yourself in advance that theres no way in the world that you will drink or use drugs at the event. Ask for help from your Higher Power, because you may need it. Know and rehearse exactly what you will say if someone asks, Do you want a drink?” or Want to use/do some drugs?”


20. Stay sober at the party, Serve yourself.

If you can, bring your own drinks, so you dont even have to go near the bar. If you dont bring your own, when you arrive head straight to the liquid refreshments and help yourself to a safe option. Keep your drink in your hand for the rest of your time at the party (refill as needed). That way you wont have to keep turning down offers of something to drink. People wont be asking you and unknowingly tempting you. If you put your drink down while chatting to someone or when you go to the toilet, get a new one when you return. Dont take a chance on anyone having accidentally switched drinks or good-naturedly topped yours up, or even worse, slipped a drug into it.

Back to resources