This is a guest post by Adam Cook, founder of AddictionHub.org.
Adam recently lost a good friend to suicide. His friend suffered from alcoholism for years and wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar disorder until he went into a substance abuse program a couple of years ago. Adam says he often wonders, had his friend's bipolar disorder been diagnosed sooner, would he still be with us today?
Though we don’t often think of it as such, addiction is a mental illness. And those addicted to drugs and/or alcohol are twice as likely as the rest of the population to have an additional mental illness, such as a mood or anxiety disorder.
Without further ado, here's Adam with his guest post...
While many people look forward to spending time with coworkers, friends, and family members for the holidays, others who struggle with addiction dread parties and celebrations because they test their sobriety. For recovering alcoholics, the holidays can be a very lonely time because they don’t want to risk being tempted at holiday gatherings. But, being alone for the holidays can lead to drinking alone. What may seem like a hopeless situation is not so hopeless after all, however. Here are four tips for staying sober during the holidays, so that you can maintain your sobriety going into the new year while still enjoying time with loved ones.
1. Stay in close contact with your sponsor or another support person
If you have achieved sobriety with the help of a program like Alcoholics Anonymous, you should stay in close contact with your sponsor throughout the holiday season. Having someone to talk to and lean on when you face the pressure of being around friends and family who drink excessively will be a critical component of remaining sober during the festivities.
If you are going out of town for the holidays and won’t be near your sponsor, rely on your partner or another family member for support. If you are traveling with a close relative or significant other, create a sobriety plan ahead of time. Decide which functions you will skip and do something free of alcohol altogether, or plan to stay near one another and stay sober together during your holiday gatherings.
2. Plan ahead
As a recovering alcoholic, you most likely have the support of your friends and family to remain sober. It would be beneficial for you to talk to them before the holidays and plan non-alcoholic activities to do as a group so you don’t feel left out and they can continue to support you. In fact, staying busy and having fun is one of the best ways to avoid alcohol during the holidays. Consider going to holiday concerts, catching a sporting event, visiting local sites, playing board games, or watching old movies together.
It’s also a great idea to find some non-alcoholic recipes and cocktails to share with everyone so that you can enjoy holiday traditions more safely and responsibly in the name of remaining sober. You could up the stakes and have a friendly competition to see whose recipes and cocktails get the most votes and make a new holiday tradition out of it.
3. Finding a meeting in the area
If this is your first sober holiday season, you should plan to attend meetings in the area in which you’ll be celebrating. You could check with your local chapter or research online to see where and when meetings will be held over the holidays. Make it a point to attend, and confide in a family member about those times and places, so they can help you stay on track.
4. Don't spend the holidays alone
Being alone for the holidays is not a healthy idea for anyone, but it's an especially dangerous idea for recovering alcoholics. Reach out to coworkers, friends, and family members and be sure to have a plan for spending time with people for each and every day, or at least for the days that you don’t have to be at work. If you can’t travel to your family, invite them to your place. Or, plan to spend time with fellow people in recovery or with your sponsor. Just make sure that you will be spending time with people you care about and trust, and who care about you enough to help you maintain your sobriety throughout the holiday season.
It is possible to maintain your sobriety during the holiday season. If you plan ahead to have a confidante, stay busy, drink and eat non-alcoholic treats, attend a meeting, and spend time with people, your holidays will be enjoyable, and your sobriety will remain intact. This just may be the best holiday season yet, because you will be able to celebrate your sobriety with friends and family at the same time.