Maintaining Sobriety: Recovery During the Holidays

While the holidays are often associated with glad tidings and joy, the reality can be quite different for members of the recovery community. This festive season can be especially stressful if you’re navigating a recovery journey from alcohol and/or substance use. In fact, a recent survey found that 94% of respondents in recovery reported feeling overwhelmingly or moderately stressed during the holidays.

This stress is often attributed to holiday gatherings with friends and family combined with heightened emotions and the presence of substances. That’s why it’s important for those in the recovery community, and those supporting a loved one in recovery, to recognize and understand why certain scenarios can harm a recovery journey and put them at risk of returning to use

Tips for Maintaining Sobriety  

With potential triggers and temptations, how can you maintain sobriety during the holidays? The following strategies and tips are commonly recommended among the recovery community to help. 

Plan to Protect Your Sobriety

Holiday-themed parties and family gatherings often include alcohol which might prompt people to offer you a drink. Planning ahead for uncomfortable situations and triggering environments can help you avoid surprises and protect your sobriety. Consider the following suggestions to help you have a plan in place: 

  • Attend a meeting before any social gatherings. Find 12-step meetings in the Louisville community at and
  • Invite a sober friend to come with you.
  • Make plans to meet up with your sponsor or talk on the phone.
  • Find your own transportation or catch a ride with someone in your support system.
  • Limit your time around stressful situations and difficult people.
  • Prepare to politely refuse alcohol and drugs.
  • Have an escape plan if things start to feel too difficult. 

Practice Self-Care  

Self-care looks different for everyone and can be as simple as eating well, being physically active, and resting or practicing meditation. Proper nutrition, plenty of physical exercise, and rest can help you feel stronger, both physically and emotionally. Self-care can also look like saying ‘no’ when you need to and even planning something special for yourself that you enjoy. 

Serve Others  

Evidence shows that helping others can also benefit our own mental health and well-being. It can reduce stress as well as improve mood, self-esteem, and happiness. Some ideas to think about and serve others can include making a special family recipe and delivering it to friends, donating your time to a local community organization, food pantry, or soup kitchen, or spending time with a neighbor who is confined. Being able to have a clear mind and body to help others is a gift and one of the many benefits of staying clean and sober.

Try New Traditions  

Rather than attending family holiday gatherings with substances and potential triggers, consider trying new holiday traditions. Some ideas can include movies, museums, holiday concerts, skating, walks, sledding, and sports events. Activities like these can help fill the time, be fun experiences, and limit stress. If the weather keeps you inside, suggest activities such as decorating holiday cookies, making homemade ornaments for each other, or board games to help everyone spend the time together intentionally. 

Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude in recovery provides many unexpected rewards, especially during the holidays. Ideas for maintaining a sense of gratitude during this season include keeping a gratitude journal, doing random acts of kindness, finding ways to be helpful, reflecting on what you have, and sending thoughtful holiday cards. The main goal of practicing gratitude is to take some time each day to acknowledge your blessings and reflect on the good. Doing this will help you keep a positive mindset and improve your physical and emotional well-being.

Make Sobriety Your Top Priority 

Saying yes to someone when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. During a season that’s already stressful, be mindful of limiting your emotional triggers. If you don’t think an activity is going to be good for your recovery, it’s okay not to go. Don’t put yourself in the position of having to “power through” a situation. Staying sober and safeguarding your recovery must always come first.

Seek Extra Support 

For a safe and happy holiday, it’s vital to be aware of triggers and have strategies ready to keep stress and your recovery journey under control. If it starts to feel like too much, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Our team of support and resources at Seven Counties Services are here and ready to help you every step of the way. Contact us even if you just need someone to talk to and provide a little extra support and encouragement. 

For information on scheduling a first appointment, call (502) 589-1100 or complete an online appointment request. Our Preston Street location is also available for walk-ins Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM. If you or someone you know needs urgent help, please call our 24/7 Addiction Recovery Hotline at (502) 583-3951.

Reviewed by Cory Moneymaker, LCSW, LCADC, the Division Director of Addiction Recovery for Seven Counties Services.  

Schedule Appointment

Seven Counties Services serves everyone regardless of diagnosis or insurance status. We ensure that getting started on your journey to recovery is as easy as possible. To schedule your first appointment, you can call directly or complete an online appointment request.

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