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The holidays and recovery can be tough to navigate, especially for teens trying to stay sober and compliant with addiction treatment. Between Christmas parties and year-ender benders, young adults and teens, in particular, tend to look forward to the winter break as one last opportunity to swing for the fences, metaphorically.

It’s one thing to stay sober when everyone else is cutting down on drinking to study for the midterms – it’s an entirely different thing to try and stay sober when your friends and coursemates are getting visibly drunk on Instagram every other weekend. If this is your first holiday season staying sober, then it’s doubly challenging. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here’s what you should know about staying off the sauce during the winter period.

Holidays and Recovery: Staying Sober

Like anything else, sobriety is about taking it a day at a time and building the positive habits that help reinforce your discipline. But you’re still human and fallible. So, ask for help.

Support is crucial, especially in the first few months and years of sobriety, and it’s important to keep people around who can hold you accountable and make sure that you’re dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s, in terms of recovery programming, therapy, and daily healthy habits.

Whether that means picking up a sponsor, putting up an old friend to the task, or asking your parents or siblings to check up on you and keep you on the straight and narrow is up to you.

Talk to your therapist or specialist about setting short-term goals and creating manageable weekly or daily to-do lists for your mental and physical health. Drug use, especially at an early age, can be physically debilitating.

It can take a lot of time to build up a healthier body through exercise and diet, but doing so is one of the best lines of defense against recurring cravings and relapses – by dedicating more time towards mental and physical health, you continuously deter a potential relapse and create an ever greater list of reasons to stick to sobriety.

The holidays, in particular, can be a decadent and tempting time, whether it’s over mulled wine and eggnog or watching your friends (or former friends) party the night away. You can still have fun. But you will need to set a few basic immutable ground rules.

Here are five ways you can manage holidays and recovery successfully for a sober season.

1. Always Keep a Sober Friend Around

The last thing you should do is be the only sober person around. Not only is that demoralizing, but it is excruciatingly hard, especially if you haven’t been sober for very long. It’s one thing to develop decades of sobriety – but it’s another when it’s your first time out in months and everyone around you is getting drunk.

Always keep someone around who will stay sober with you, no matter what. Ideally, avoid parties with alcohol, to begin with – but if that is not an option, make sure you’re with someone who will hold you accountable and who is not afraid to muscle you out of the party if they’re worried that you might do something you will regret the next day.

2. Do Your Friends Respect Your Boundaries?

Teens can be smart and insightful, but they can also be the exact opposite. Your closest friends might support your decision to seek help for your drinking problem, but that does not mean they will take their own drinking down a notch or two, even in your presence.

If you’re coming out of a residential treatment program, off of a long stint in rehab, or off of an outpatient program and don’t want to be near or around booze and those who drink it, keep an eye on how your friends react.

Are they ready to give up drinking around you? Are they fine with joining you on sober outings, like a hiking trip or a visit to the ice rink, instead of taking you to the club? Do they respect your new sober boundaries? If they do, that’s great. If they don’t and insist on partying and getting drunk while you’re around and triggering your cravings – reconsider spending your time with them. It is not worth the pain and anguish of continuous relapses and struggles through recovery.

3. Keep Booze Out of the Home

One of the most important things to do when coming back from a program or when getting started with an outpatient program is to get rid of it all. Toss it. Throw it out. Give it to someone else. Dump it down the drain.

Even if the task is just to not drink, having drinks around will always give you that urge to down a bottle at the end of the day when the cravings kick in if you know there’s one around.

Get rid of that temptation, especially over a stressful period like the holidays. The “security blanket” of a secret stash is not worth the actual grief and regret of using it.

4. Keep a Sober Drink on Hand

When spending time at a party, having a sober friend should be rule one. Rule two should be to keep your hands and mouth occupied with a sober drink – keep some juice around, or club soda, or anything non-alcoholic and somewhat enjoyable.

When you’re empty, get yourself a refill – just having a drink in hand can help deter strangers from asking to buy you one. 

5. Continue to Attend Group Meetings

A lot of people tend to speed through December with thoughts of the new year swirling in their minds. But don’t forget, the last month of the year still represents a solid eighth of the entire year. That’s a lot of time, and with consistency as our goal, you should continue to spend that time in recovery the same way you would any other month by continuing to do the following:

  • Scheduling therapy appointments
  • Going to meetings
  • Talking to your sponsors or sober friends
  • Committing to sobriety, even during the holidays
  • Setting your goals and schedules
  • Fostering your positive habits

Consider a Holiday Treatment Plan

If you’re struggling with the holidays and recovery, negative thoughts, or cravings more than usual, it’s important to remember that prevention is better than a cure.

Talk to a therapist or re-enroll yourself in an outpatient or inpatient program before you relapse. You don’t need to fall off the wagon before reattending a treatment program, particularly if the holidays are an especially stressful time for you. It’s okay to get help.

For more information about teen addiction treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

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