The year-end festivities associated with Christmas and New Year aren’t just times for good cheer. People with a history of alcohol and drug misuse often report these times as especially difficult when it comes to maintaining sobriety.
Historically speaking, festivals of any kind are taken to be reasons to celebrate with food, alcohol, or other substances, often as a symbolic end to the farm work, as well as the trials and tribulations of the past year and as a way to mark the new year to come. This is, of course, something that we still do in modern times, even if the labor and social contexts behind drinking have changed significantly over millennia.
In other words, heavy drinking during the holidays is more likely to be accepted than it is at other times of the year, even when it no longer makes as much sense given how people live today.
The data bears witness to this. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Christmas and New Year always see an increase in binge drinking as well as increases in relapses for people with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Hospital emergency rooms are also typically full of people with alcohol intoxication or drug overdoses during these times.
That said, if you have problems with drugs or alcohol, it’s important to keep yourself a bit more guarded during these times. Thankfully, you don’t have to forgo the holidays altogether. If you’re recovering from AUD, here are a few suggestions for celebrating an amazing alcohol-free Christmas.
1.) Celebrate Your Sobriety
Rather than letting constant reminders of alcohol in the holidays get the best of you, you can use Christmas as a time to celebrate sobriety and recovery. If you’re still meeting up regularly with your support group, you can hit up some of your group buddies for a quick celebration. You can also consider attending a support group session, even if you haven’t been to one in a while. This will help give you a better idea of how far you’ve come.
2.) Reflect on What Christmas Really Means to You
There’s no rule that you can’t celebrate Christmas without alcohol. Children generally enjoy Christmas the most and they don’t need alcohol. They’re just happy that they have time off school and get to have gifts. There’s no reason you cannot enjoy yourself at that level again if you wish.
3.) Consider Creating New Traditions
For better or worse, traditions can ground us to our past. There is no reason to hang onto a harmful tradition if you don’t want to do it. If drinking was a tradition in your family, it’s time to come up with one. That said, you will still want to have something special to do since you will probably have some time off to yourself. Traveling to another country, reading a book, painting, writing a poem — whatever floats your boat — you have the power to decide how to enjoy your time off in the holidays.
4.) Host Your Own Booze-free Christmas Party
If you’re the host, you get to set the rules, which can make it easier for you to avoid alcohol. If you want, you can allow your guests to bring alcohol for their own consumption or keep things completely dry, depending on your comfort level.
5.) Try Non-alcoholic Versions of Traditional Holiday Drinks
Alcohol is such a part of many Christmas traditions that it’s very difficult for some people to think about the holidays without a glass of whiskey, champagne, or eggnog around the fire. Thankfully, the market for non-alcoholic versions of these different drinks has matured considerably in the past years, and you can easily find versions of these and other drinks that are palatable or downright enjoyable.
Find Help For Alcohol Use Disorder Today
With proper intervention and therapy, AUD and other substance use disorders are controllable. However, alcohol use disorder is a serious illness that can affect people for years after their initial recovery. Seasonal events like the holidays and one-off stressors can easily set back individuals who had already made progress in their recovery.
If you believe you have a problem with your drug or alcohol recovery journey, our team at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers is ready to help. If you’re in North Texas, call +1(214) 935-2287 to find personalized aftercare and rehab options in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2020, December).The Truth About Holiday Spirits.
- Lai, F. Y., Bruno, R., Hall, W., Gartner, C., Ort, C., Kirkbride, P., … & Mueller, J. F. (2013).Profiles of illicit drug use during annual key holiday and control periods in Australia: wastewater analysis in an urban, a semi‐rural and a vacation area. Addiction, 108(3), 556-565.