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Recovery /
Christmas and New Year Tips to Staying Sober

Help yourself in early recovery to survive Christmas and New Year!

Christmas and New Year, plus the few days/weeks immediately after, are the riskiest times of the year for relapsing back to alcohol/drugs. Preparation must start early to avoid a relapse and instead build a foundation for this and future christmases and new years.

Although it is a time for celebration, the Christmas and New Year periods can have an impact on everyone. Whether you are involved directly or not, there are many implications for anyone in recovery. Everything is heightened, emotions, relationships and normal everyday activities are manifested into bigger events.

Alcohol & drugs are a major factor in the celebrations and many people who do not usually drink to excess find themselves going way beyond their normal limits. People in early recovery must remain aware that this can place them in vulnerable situations, and that it might be safest to avoid environments where alcohol and drugs are more open and available. This might include choosing to spend as much of the time as possible with other people in recovery.

Plan to attend specific fellowship AA/NA meetings over the period – make a written plan of meetings that you ARE going to attend and stick to it, otherwise the subtle Ideas of “I’ll be alright” can sneak Into your thoughts.

Learn to use the telephone BEFORE you end up desperate to make a RELAPSE (Life) saving call, call people for a chat just to speak to someone. If you have to be around alcohol, try to have at least one person around who understands your situation and is available to support you. Be aware of old places – start a new history in different places with others in recovery.

The first few Christmases and New Years in recovery can feel frightening for people for whom it might have been years since they experienced these periods without a drink or drug.


Use the fellowship, meetings and your sponsor

Avoid pubs, clubs and parties

Take control, invite friends to you

Be good to yourself, allow some treats

Keep in regular touch with safe friends/family/support

Keep balance and variety in all you do. TV, exercise, walks

Plan ahead, make a specific Christmas & New Year relapse prevention plan

Plan fun as well as safety


Don’t hide away and isolate

Don’t stagnate in front of the TV

Don’t project

Don’t become complacent or procrastinate (Lazy)

Don’t go somewhere without a get out or exit plan, make it easier to leave a difficult situation.


To have realistic thoughts and not expectations of this time of year

To have fun – recovery at Christmas and New Year can be and is to be enjoyed

To have company when possible, maybe even a recovery party

To send yourself a card

To have gratitude for being clean/sober

Early January can increase risk of relapse as you can often feel relieved at having survived, complacency can come in and lead to thoughts of “I deserve a reward” for doing well, YOU DO, but Instead of rewarding yourself with drink or drugs reward yourself with a positive recovery affirmation. Christmas can be a very difficult time for you all as a whole, due to family dynamics, lack of money, past issues to name a few. If you add alcoholism/addiction to the mix, it can be a major trigger to relapse.  People in early recovery are very sensitive and vulnerable as they start the process of rebuilding relationships and family ties, working on self-esteem and confidence issues and creating a new network of support. The whole period can be an emotionally difficult  time for alcoholics/addicts who can feel alone and isolated, particularly when family systems have yet to fully heal, there may be unresolved issues or when family members are still in denial, or drinking/using themselves. It is often hard to “fit back in” to a family system or network of friends who might not understand the concept of abstinence and or make changes necessary to support maintaining your recovery.

It can feel like “Everyone else in the world is

happy and are drinking/using except me” as alcohol/drugs are so prevalent in the celebrations whether it be in families, the workplace, socially or even in favourite TV adverts and  programmes such as soap operas, most of which centre round family dramas and pubs. It can be difficult to get away from alcohol and recreational drugs even when you stay at home and try hard. In recovery at this time of year you will see many advertisements for alcoholic drinks!!

Part of the recovery process is about being proactive and prepared to deal with life presenting difficult situations. A common sense and Keep Safe approach is useful, focusing on positive action such as below.

1. Make a relapse-prevention plan for each day of the Christmas and New year period, to include daily fellowship meetings. Check as there are usually extra meetings and social recovery events scheduled to help alcoholic addicts through this time of year.

2. Plan activities such as exercise, walking, relaxation, this helps avoiding the temptation to stagnate alone at home.

3. Plan, if possible, to be with other recovering alcoholic addicts or people who support your recovery.

4. Have breaks from stressful situations by meeting friends for coffee, going for a walk, to the gym.

5. Make a list of people you can call if things get difficult, at least five names and carry the list and your phone with you at all times.

6. Offer to do service in the 12-step fellowships or volunteer to help other charities.

7. Do a daily gratitude list to help keep your motivation up.

8. Make sure you have everything you might need at home in advance to avoid wandering the streets looking for shops on the main holidays, as most of the open shops will be off -licenses. Try to include plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and healthy food which you enjoy.

9. Avoid isolation and listening to music which can trigger sadness or uncomfortable feelings.

10. Avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants or other places. Do not be tempted to “Join In/Test yourself”.

11. Do not get into arguments, squabbles or unhealthy dynamics with friends or family members, especially if they have been drinking/using.

12. Keep it in the day. Each day of the Christmas/New year period is just another 24 hours, so try not to give it any more power than that. Enjoy your Christmas and New Year, one day at a time.

A Christmas tree and decorations can lift your mood. Make your home a feel good welcoming place. If you are going to a party go to a meeting before you go, and take another recovering person with you. Have your sponsor’s phone number and credit on your phone so you can call him/her if things get difficult. Have money for a taxi. Have an exit plan. If you are giving a lift to other people, discuss the possibility of leaving them to get a taxi home if you feel uncomfortable with their drinking! Your recovery comes first. Ensure hosts and people who matter know that you do not drink alcohol so they can ensure there are drinks which are not alcohol based available. Rehearse and know exactly what to say to someone if they say “Come on, you can have 1 drink”.

Remember “HALT” and if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, speak to someone about It straight away.

Keep In mind your own recovery maintenance plan which Identifies your own risks and triggers and how to manage them.

Remember expectations are “Resentments waiting to happen” and Christmas/New Year can be a time of high expectations.

Remember the difference between planning and projection, and keep things in the day Christmas is about being with those close to you, family and friends


Remember that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. Don’t overdo the presents you don’t owe anyone anything! It can be tempting to make a big splash to try to make up for the past but that can raise emotions and feelings of guilt and shame and thoughts of “buying” people can appear. The best present you can give anyone at all is YOU spending a clean and sober Christmas with those closest to you.

Remember your list of the meetings that you will be attending, checking for any Christmas and New Year changes and plan in advance how to get to these meetings.

The Christmas and New Year periods are “Just other days” in recovery. Which Is true but they can be difficult periods and need special planning and attention. In fact, it is one of the two main times when particular awareness and more focus are needed. One of those times is Christmas & New Year! And the other is all the rest of the year!