Celebrating the Holidays Without Alcohol

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Celebrating the Holidays Without Alcohol

Holiday celebrations, whether family gatherings or work-related social functions, often include alcohol. It seems alcoholic beverages and socializing typically go hand in hand. For someone in recovery from alcohol addiction, this relationship can be a complex and difficult challenge to manage safely. Suppose you want to be a part of holiday festivities but do not or cannot partake in alcoholic beverages. What can you do to still celebrate the holidays without alcohol?


Bring a Sober Companion

Sober companions (sometimes called sober escorts or recovery coaches) are one solution many addicts in recovery use to help manage the challenges of holiday stressors. A sober companion is a person recovering addicts can turn to in the early stages of their transition back home after rehab. This individual helps keep them sober and provides emotional and psychological support to help them stay clean during the earliest and most challenging recovery stages. 


Sober companions are also an excellent source of support during functions and events where you know alcohol will be involved and that you may need extra support managing known triggers. Sometimes called “on-call” or escort-based sober companions, these individuals are available on-demand, and you can call them (typically at any time of the night or day) when you need someone to talk to or visit with. This situation is ideal if you mostly need support dealing with triggers or cravings but don’t necessarily need someone to share your living space and provide a 24/7 presence.  


Escort-based sober companions primarily focus on preventing recovering addicts from buying substances as they travel to and from work, attend social gatherings, or go to meetings such as group meetings or appointments with their therapist. This lower level of support is ideal if you don’t trust yourself to manage triggers or not relapse when left alone but don’t necessarily need emotional support outside of your mental health provider, friends and family.


Choose a Mocktail Instead

Social drinking, for some people, can be the start of a slippery slide into addiction. Maintaining sobriety at social gatherings can be even more challenging for those who have already attended a treatment program for alcohol abuse. Regardless of your current relationship with alcohol, it can be tough to stand in a room of people who are drinking and control the urge to raise a glass along with everyone else. This does not mean you cannot attend social events. 


There are several non-alcoholic beverages that can help you participate in the rituals associated with social events without increasing the potential for alcohol-related negative consequences. Some common examples of these beverages include club soda, sparkling juices, and soda or water. There are also non-alcoholic beers and “mocktails.” Non-alcoholic beers provide a healthy alcohol alternative and a means to avoid drinking in social settings. However, despite their name, many of these products may contain trace amounts of alcohol. This would make these beverages unsuitable for individuals who have a history of alcohol addiction or who are in recovery. Mocktails or non-alcoholic mixed drinks (also known as virgin drinks) mimic the taste of their alcohol-containing counterparts without the risks associated with the alcohol-containing versions.  


In addition to requesting alcohol-free drink alternatives at a function or event, consider bringing along beverages that meet your needs. For example, if you are going to a family dinner or get-together, offer to bring sparkling cider or non-alcoholic beer with you to share with others. This will ensure you have access to alcohol-free drink alternatives throughout the evening. 


Use the Coping Skills Learned in Rehab

The holidays can be stressful for everyone. A consistent flow of gathering invites, and family obligations can only add to the stressors, especially if you are actively trying to avoid potentially triggering situations. Unfortunately, the only way to truly avoid alcohol during the holidays is to forego functions where party hosts will serve alcohol. But, that may not be a reasonable or helpful choice as it may require your skipping out on important time with family during the holiday season. So what can you do to relieve stress and cope with the added anxiety of the holidays? 


Turn to the coping tools you learned and practiced as part of addiction treatment and aftercare at an alcohol addiction rehab like The Hills. 


Eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep

Although achieving both is typically easier said than done for many people, a healthy and nutritious diet and adequate rest are vital factors in maintaining your overall health. When you are feeling down, tired, and off your pace, it makes it easier for stress and anxiety to take over and for you to consider self-medication with alcohol as an option to “keep going.” Be sure to get adequate sleep by maintaining (whenever possible) a regular sleep schedule and focus on eating a balanced diet. 


Learn about and practice mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques, including yoga and meditation, have been used for centuries to improve focus and relaxation. Mindfulness tools and activities are an excellent way to reduce levels of stress and anxiety while helping you focus your mind on the now and the things going on around you. Some forms of mindfulness, such as yoga, are also excellent examples of low-impact ways to improve your flexibility and incorporate physical activity into your day. 


Avoid stressors

Another anxiety reduction technique is to, if possible, actively avoid the things that cause stress and anxiety. Like sleeping and following a healthy diet, this may also be easier said than done-especially during the holidays. But it is important to remember that if you feel anxious, participating in a stressful conversation or interacting with stressful people or situations will only worsen your symptoms and could lead to relapse. 


Try a new hobby (or get back to an old one)

Have you always wanted to know how to paint or crochet? How about automotive work or DIY projects? Maybe baking or painting? The options are endless when you have a bit more time on your hands than usual. The best part of learning a hobby now that you can use to ward off the isolation doldrums is that your new craft is something you will be able to continue to do even after the holidays are over.


If you have always wanted to try an online course or learn a skill that is intriguing to you, the holiday season may be a perfect time. There are many online sources for classes in everything, from musical instruments to art and foreign languages. Many of them are reasonably priced under normal circumstances, and some prices have been further reduced since the beginning of the pandemic to make them even more accessible to anyone interested. For the most part, most of the courses do not require any unique materials or investment other than your time and interest. 


If you are looking to learn a new skill or trade, there are also classes for medical coding or computer coding and more that you can try. Any of the above can help keep your mind off holiday stress and reduce the potential for relapse. 


Keep moving

It’s hard to get motivated to exercise during the winter months, especially during the holidays. It gets dark early, it’s too cold for outdoor activities, and you’re exhausted from all the other obligations that come with the holiday season. However, incorporating some type of exercise will help to reduce stress levels, manage potential anxiety and even help improve your mood and sleep. Pick an activity that works for you and try to develop a routine you can stick to during the holidays and maybe even beyond. 


Know When It’s Time To Get Help

Maintaining lasting sobriety after alcohol addiction is not without its challenges. The journey to ongoing recovery is one that is often accompanied by difficulties and setbacks. In fact, statistics from SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration note that up to 60% of addicts in recovery will experience at least one relapse after completing an alcohol addiction treatment program at a rehab like The Hills in Los Angeles. The added anxiety and stressors associated with managing the holidays without using alcohol may put you at a greater risk of relapse.  


If attending or participating in holiday functions leads to challenges to your sobriety, it is crucial to reach out for help. What that looks like for you may be different than for someone else. If you need someone to talk to or a place to go for support, consider:

  • Calling your mental health provider
  • Attending a support group meeting
  • Reaching out to a sponsor or sober companion
  • Confiding in a family member or peer who can help


If you have relapsed or are concerned you could relapse, getting back into treatment and actively engaging in your support programs is crucial for your physical and emotional health. At The Hills, our skilled and experienced team of addiction treatment professionals are here to help. It is important to remember that relapse does not indicate failure; instead, it is a temporary setback on your recovery journey. Returning to treatment or your aftercare activities can help you quickly and safely get back on track. 


If you or a loved one live with the symptoms of alcohol addiction, there is never a wrong time to seek help. Choosing a luxury rehab like The Hills in beautiful Los Angeles, California, can help you learn more about alcohol addiction and how to overcome it safely and successfully. We offer a wide range of addiction treatment services, including detox, evidence-based therapy, alternative and holistic treatment options, and comprehensive aftercare planning. To learn more about our programs and how we can help you take the first steps towards achieving lasting sobriety, contact a member of our admissions team at The Hills today. 



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