With the right priorities, getting through the holidays sober is no problem. Before Jordan Blumer got into 12-step recovery, he drank and used drugs to make the holidays more bearable.
“Drugs and alcohol make me feel comfortable in all situations. I used to feel like I needed to use drugs and alcohol to have fun and fit in,” Blumer said. “The problem is that I have no control over how much I will do.”
Now, Blumer has been sober for years and he’s realized that the holidays don’t have to be a high-stress time of year, as long as you keep your sobriety the top priority. Working as the admissions coordinator at Deer Hollow Recovery and Wellness Centers, a treatment center in Draper, Utah, Blumer encourages others with his no-nonsense approach to holiday sobriety.
“The holidays are as tough as one makes them,” he says. “My experience shows that it’s actually not challenging to stay sober during the holidays so long as I am doing the work that is required to stay sober.”
Here are Blumer’s tips for staying sober this holiday season:
1. Understand your disease.
You know the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Well, that rings true during the holiday season. Knowing why you drink or use drugs — and what environments might prompt you to relapse — is the first step to staying sober.
“As long as one is fully aware of their patterns and unhealthy behaviors, something can be done in order to walk through and come out sober,” Blumer said.
Before making plans for the holidays, take inventory of where you are in your sobriety, and what things might jeopardize your progress. Then, make a plan to avoid situations that could be dangerous.
2. Give yourself permission to not go home.
For many sober people, returning home for the holidays is one of the biggest relapse risk factors. That’s why Blumer says everyone should consider whether or not to go home for the holidays at all. Remember when he said that sobriety has to be your number one priority this time of year? That means that it comes above even family obligations.
“I completed all 12 steps in a recovery program before even going to see family,” Blumer says. “I also waited a total of 6 months so I had a foundation that was strong in spirituality and recovery.”
If you don’t want to go home for the holidays, that’s entirely ok. If you do want to go home but still feel you might be triggered, consider bringing a sober companion or friend to help support you.
3. Let others know your boundaries.
During the holidays, your sobriety likely needs some added maintenance. That might mean attending extra meetings or taking more time alone to work on your mental and spiritual health. Be clear with your family members about the fact that you’ll be taking this time and let them know that it is critical to your health and continued sobriety.
“Setting proper boundaries with family so they understand what the priorities are when it comes to meeting schedules, time with other sober friends, and the routines that are in place in your personal life that help you daily with your own personal recovery, whatever that may be,” Blumer says. “Even if your family is supportive, it’s still vital that you explain your boundaries and be very clear about what you will need to do in order to stay sober.”
4. Reach out for help as often as you need to.
In addition to communicating openly with your family members or friends, it’s important to keep your sober support system updated with how you’re doing during the holidays. If you know that a certain day or ritual is particularly triggering, talk to your sponsor or therapist so that they can help you proactively prepare.
Then, reach out to your support system as often as you need to. On a recent three-day weekend Blumer talked with his sponsor multiple times.
“I wasn’t embarrassed or scared to reach out. I just did it,” he said. “I was willing to do anything I needed to in order to stay sober.”
5. Get real with yourself.
During the holidays there is a temptation to go home and show your loved ones how much progress you’ve made. While it’s great to celebrate your success, be realistic about where you are. You might not be ready to attend a party where people are drinking. Even worse would be thinking that you can enjoy “just one drink.”
“The idea that a real alcoholic or addict can casually use or drink is absolutely absurd,” Blumer said. “Until this understanding is reached deep inside one’s heart, your chances of staying sober are fairly poor.”
If you find yourself faltering, taking a fearless inventory of where you stand can help get you back on track.
“Ask yourself, ‘do I know and understand that I am an addict or alcoholic and am I willing to do anything to change this?’” Blumer says. “Once someone has an understanding of what they suffer from and a grasp on what they need to do about it, the only thing left is action. You are either doing what it takes or you are not. You are in the middle or you are hanging at the edges. Stay in the middle of the pack.”
Deer Hollow Recovery and Wellness Centers is a treatment center in Draper, Utah, that guides clients in moving towards physical, spiritual, psychological and social recovery.