Happy Hallowthanksmas! The holidays are just around the corner and for some of us, this can be a difficult time, especially in early sobriety. The Big Book says we were like tornadoes roaring through the lives of others- hearts broken, sweet relationships dead, affections uprooted- which can make for awkward conversations around the dinner table, if we’re invited. Nevertheless, many in recovery have faced much worse than the tension around grandma’s famous cranberry sauce! Here are some tips and tricks to make it through the holiday season sober and hopefully sane:

  1. Have an exit plan.

There is nothing worse than being somewhere unhealthy and unable to escape. Whether you are going to a healthy family member’s house who you’ve wronged or you’re going to an uncle’s house where you are tempted to leave a Big Book on the table, be sure to take your own vehicle, or have an exit plan in place with your ride so that you can bow out gracefully, if necessary.

  1. Plan your meetings out.

Meetings can be a helpful way to stay accountable during the holidays and committing to certain meetings ahead of time helps to ensure that you have a plan in place to be in a place of recovery regularly. This is a good time to up your meetings, rather than going less to be around family.

  1. Ensure you are maintaining a fit spiritual condition BEFORE the holidays.

It is important that we maintain a fit spiritual condition, for alcohol (and drugs) is a subtle foe. It is wise to be in the habit of praying, calling your sponsor and friends in recovery, going to meetings regularly, and working the steps actively, before going into a situation that may be troublesome, rather than trying to pick up those habits during this time.

  1. Try to avoid known risky situations.

Remember your potential alcoholic uncle from tip #1? It may be best to avoid going to his house altogether if you know that he, or others, may be pushy. Don’t make the holidays harder on you than they need to be.

  1. Be prepared to say no.

Let’s face it, some people don’t understand alcoholism or drug addiction, much less recovery. On the other hand, some people do understand and don’t care. We can do all the best planning in the world and still run into a sketchy situation. Therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure that we keep our sobriety intact. If someone becomes pushy, be willing to set a hard boundary or use your exit plan as necessary.

  1. Be of service.

If you are the person who wasn’t invited to the holiday shenanigans, focus on being of service to others during this time. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, understand that sometimes not being invited is a wonderful stroke of luck and use this opportunity to serve the local recovery community. Many clubs have meals and events on Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas- find out how you can get involved.

  1. Don’t forget to have fun!

The holidays can be a wonderful time, so don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Whether you are surrounded by family who are grateful to have you sober, or surrounded by people in recovery who are grateful that you are keeping the coffee going, try to enjoy yourself and bask in the fact that you are able to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually present with the people around you.

Preparing for the holidays ahead of time can help alleviate a lot of the stress experienced in the moment, if things go sideways. You don’t want to be in a bad situation without a plan. The Big Book says in step ten that we have been placed in a position of neutrality, safe and protected, but that wasn’t my experience my first holiday season, before I finished the steps. Instead, I ended up spending some time with my family and the rest at a local recovery group preparing for the meal and had a gratitude meeting. The latter is where I felt the most comfortable that first year and my family understood that that is what I needed at the time to ensure that I made it one more day. So, enjoy the holidays, express your gratitude, and make sure to do what you need to do to ensure you make it one more day.

-Zach