Tips for an Alchohol-free New Year
A most dangerous time of year for relapse is the holiday season. The pressure of the holidays, coupled with parties involving alcohol and even recreational drugs, make it difficult for the addict to sustain their recovery. This also can result in the start of the New Year to be a "fresh start" for those who wish to decrease or quit drinking or drug abuse. "The New Year's Resolution" can be a symbol of hope for those new to recovery or even those who have been in recovery but have experienced a holiday relapse. People often make a commitment to sobriety at the start of the new year, but usually do not keep their commitments. Afterall, it isn't easy to shed oneself of an addiction.
Addiction is a bewildering problem to individuals and families. Scientifically speaking, it is a complex disease of the brain and body. This family-destroying disease is often confusing to the addict's loved ones because of the myth that it is a choice and not considered a disease, like diabetes or cancer. The rationale is often, "Alcohol or drugs causes the addict so many problems, why doesn't the addict just quit?" We know that it isn't this simple. Even those successful in recovery for months, even years, are susceptible to relapse and can succumb to the disease at any time.
Here are 10 tips to avoid the pitfalls of the holiday season and enjoying a sober 2016:
- Remember that going forward it’s not all about getting drunk or high.
It’s too easy to dwell on the relapse. New Year’s Eve can be one big drunk fest, a party holiday when the goal is to get as drunk or high as possible and do things you wouldn’t normally do. It doesn’t have to be mean that you fall back into a pit of despair and substance abuse. Remember your sobriety and celebrate everything you have done this past year, looking forward to the coming year with your friends and family. Put it behind you and live one day at a time.
- Trust in friends.
In the future, if you are going to a party where alcohol will be served or drugs will be available, find someone you trust and go with that person. This should be someone who knows about your intention to remain sober, who is supportive of that intention, and who you can trust to help you make the right decisions.
- Have an emergency plan.
Realize going forward that if you are going to a New Year’s Eve party or any party in the future, you may find yourself in a difficult situation. You might be surrounded by friends and acquaintances who are drinking or using drugs and feel pressured to join in. Someone might offer you a drink or a hit. What will you do then? How can you say “No” without feeling awkward? Unless you’re comfortable saying “No,” you should have some type of excuse that you can use to turn down the offer or even to leave the party if you’re feeling too much pressure.
- Choose parties where drugs or alcohol won’t be the focus.
It may seem like you can’t go to future New Year’s Eve parties without being surrounded by drunk people, but this simply isn’t the case. Most people know at least one person who is going to a party where drinking isn’t the main event, and if you ask around you can probably find a party like this. Just because you relapsed this past New Year's Eve, doesn't mean you need to avoid celebrating in the future.
- Celebrate with sober friends.
You probably know someone, or perhaps even many people, who aren’t all that interested in drugs or alcohol. Make your plans with these people. Even at parties where some people are getting drunk or high, there are usually other people at the same venue who are staying sober but having at least as much fun, or maybe even more. Spend your time with these people.
- Take care of yourself.
The holiday season is the favorite time of year for many people, but it is also the most stressful time of year for just as many people. Know this for the future. It’s easy to push yourself too hard, to set expectations too high and to allow yourself to be spread too thin. The final result of all this stress could be you deciding to cut loose and get drunk or high. No matter how much you may feel obligated to show up to every party or try to make the holidays perfect for everyone, remember to set limits and take care of yourself, so that you don’t end up burning yourself out.
- Don’t set yourself for failure.
It’s too easy to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Maybe you decided to spend New Year’s Eve sober and to stay away from drugs and alcohol entirely, but recently failed. Don't view this recent relapse as a failure. Remember that its part of the process of recovery. Too often, someone in this situation decides that he or she has failed, gives up and goes off the deep end drinking or using drugs. If you have made a mistake, be willing to forgive yourself and start over; it’s better to have one drink and then stay sober than to give up on the goal of sobriety after having a moment of weakness.
- Maintain a healthy diet for the New Year.
The holiday season is a time when people usually over-indulge in sweets, eat too much and generally consume a poor diet. When you eat this way, you tend to feel bad, and this stress can lead to wanting to have a drink or get high to “take the edge off.” If you maintain a healthy diet and eat in moderation in the days after the commencement of the New Year, you will have a more solid foundation from which to work on your goal of staying sober.
- Set up a reward for staying sober.
One thing you can do to increase the likelihood that you will make it through future New Year’s Eves sober is to arrange some type of reward for yourself. Maybe it’s a purchase of some item you’ve been wanting, or perhaps it’s being able to have a brunch or dinner at your favorite restaurant. Alternatively, the reward could be being relieved from something unpleasant, such as if your spouse agrees to do the dishes for a week if you manage to stay sober. Whatever it may be, find something that will motivate you to stick to your decision to avoid drinking or using drugs.
- Get started early on your New Year’s resolution.
If you have been struggling with substance abuse or have recently quit in an effort to overcome your addiction, you probably have a New Year’s resolution along the lines of, “I will stay sober for the entire year in 2016.” Don't do what many do and push this off until February or March. Begin applying your resolution NOW. That way, you won’t have to start off your 2016 with a hangover, and when you reach the end of the year, you can be that much more proud of yourself for having started out the year on the right foot.