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Staying Sober Through the Holiday Season

Once you become addicted to alcohol, it is a monumental task to become and stay sober.

The task becomes even more challenging as you enter the holiday season. I was recently asked on a radio interview to give some tips about staying sober over the Christmas holidays. I was very excited and rattled off about a dozen strategies that people could use right away.

"That's way too many "Doc!" shouted the radio host. "They'll never remember all that. I want you to start over and give my listeners your top three strategies for staying sober over the holidays."

After some very quick thinking, I came up with the following response!

1. Plan Every Day of your Holidays:

Many persons recovering from alcoholism have an extremely difficult time managing their leisure time. If you have 10 days of holidays before returning to work, it is imperative that you know exactly what you are doing on each and every day.

The first thing you can do is plan to attend dinners and gatherings where the majority of people attending are either non drinkers or light drinkers.

If there is no alcohol available, there will be less temptation.

If you host a dinner, you can invite trusted friends and family members and let them know there will be zero or limited alcohol available.

With extra time on your hands, it is also a great idea to get out and exercise. Instead of taking a nap on the couch after dinner, go for a walk around the block.

Plan to do some form of physical exercise on each day of your holidays. Examples include swimming, skating, running, Tai Chi, yoga or water aerobics.

However, it is very important that your walking route does not pass by the liquor store!

The holidays are also a very important time to volunteer to help those who are less fortunate than you. By helping out at a soup kitchen, food bank or homeless shelter, you are not only helping those in need but yourself.

Write on your calendar what you are doing and where you are going on each and every day of your holidays. Pay attention to detail and have contingency plans.

Remember that when you were drinking, you probably knew the exact locations of every liquor store and its hours of operation within a 30 mile radius of your home.

2. Carry your Cell Phone with you at all Times:

Even with a very detailed and structured holiday plan, it is very likely that you will face some challenging situations that may tempt you to drink.

That is why you must carry your cell phone and the names of 10 people you can call at all times. If you have the urge to drink, pick up your cell phone and keep calling until you contact somebody.

If you don't have a cell phone, carry enough change with you to make at least 10 phone calls.

Please remember that cravings are to be expected and are a natural part of the recovery process. Don't pick up that first drink. Instead, pick up your phone and call your sponsor or support network.

3. Stay Close to Your Support Group and Far Away From Slippery Places:

The holiday season is supposed to be a time of love and joy with special emphasis on the spirit of giving.

However many persons including those recovering from alcoholism find the holidays a time of anguish, depression, loneliness and despair. The holidays are not a time to be isolated from the rest of society.

In fact, a prominent New York psychotherapist Stanley Gitlow states that in more than 30 years of practice, he has never come across an alcoholic who was not suffering from isolation.

Isolation is devastating for the recovering alcoholic and must be avoided at any cost, especially during holidays.

If you are attempting to stay clean and sober, it is absolutely essential to keep in constant contact with your support group and to stay away from "slippery places."

A support group includes a 12 step group, non 12 step recovery group or trusted friends and family.

Plan to spend twice as much time with your support group as you normally do the rest of the year. If you are in constant contact with your support group, there is absolutely no reason you will want to visit the old gang at your former watering hole.

Staying sober over the holiday period is not an easy task.

Follow the above strategies and don't pick up that first drink!

Sobriety is a gift. Be grateful for every day that you are sober.

Dr. Larry Smith Author of:
Embracing the Journey of Recovery: From Tragedy to Triumph
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Source: addictionrecoveryblog November 17th, 2007