Your Definitive Guide to a Happy and Sober Holiday Season – Accurate Status Assessment

Happy Sober Holidays require planning but can be fun

Your Definitive Guide to a Happy and Sober Holiday Season – Accurate Status Assessment

It’s common for newly sober persons to be concerned about “The Holidays.” Totally understandable. The holidays bring together many of the elements known to challenge sobriety or a recovery program: family, celebrations, cultural expectation of partying with alcohol, time demands, official and unofficial parties, money and budget demands, travel, and disruption of the usual schedule to name a few.

It’s possible to enjoy a sober holiday season, but it’s best to be mindful and intentional as you approach Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. I will be writing a series of blog posts helping you to interact with and plan for the components of taking charge of your holiday season.

a holiday wreath on a door to symbolize the need to be intentional about a sober holiday season

Today’s post starts with a review of your current status. It’s important to know where you are in terms of recovery so that you are accurately aware of your risk.

Relapse Risk Assessment

Relapse happens when a person’s symptoms are greater than the treatment of the disease. Let’s put it another way: relapse to alcohol or drugs happens when a person’s habits and behaviors that lead towards using are greater in number and intensity than the habits and behaviors that heal and transform and build a sober neural map.

It’s important when considering relapse to always be aware that “relapse” begins before drinking or using. Relapse begins when a person removes or declines recovery tools and habits and/or introduces habits and behaviors that are associated with using or drinking. For example, a person in a 12-Step recovery setting who stops contacting their sponsor is showing relapse symptoms. A person who developed a recovery plan which included exercise who stops exercising has chosen to be on the relapse path (assuming they have not replaced it with another brain-beneficial habit).

In reviewing for an honest recovery status, here are some things to consider:

  1. Have I reduced recovery or sobriety habits?
  2. How is my sleep?
  3. Am I taking care of nutrition?
  4. Do I have secrets about people, money, sex?
  5. Am I “acting out” in other ways that are not substance related such as misuse of porn, spending, gambling, over-gaming, sex, or anger?
  6. Have I in any way compromised or abandoned values I hold, such as fidelity or work ethic?
  7. Have I lapsed on habits that were helpful in earlier recovery, such as morning routines or meditation or evening reviews?
  8. Do I have any mental habits that are negative, or nonproductive such as resentment or anger? (you can find an excellent blog post on the science of how negative thinking leads to relapse here)
  9. Have I gotten any feedback lately from people close to me (family, supervisors, therapists, co-workers, 12 Step sponsors, spiritual advisors) that indicate they are concerned?
  10. Has my level of craving or thoughts about alcohol or drugs increased?

Happy Sober Holidays require planning but can be fun

If you have moved away from recovery habits and back towards relapse, the holiday season may accelerate the relapse process. You can at any time proactively work to reduce or eliminate the habits that do not produce health and (re)introduce healthy habits. You can contact a sponsor, a counselor, a trusted recovery friend, a person in the clergy, or other mentor or guide. You can, of course, contact a professional such as me to help.

The next blog entry in our series will help you consider “The Holidays” for your situation specifically.


24618 Kingsland Blvd 2nd Floor, Room 8
Katy, TX 77494
On the left hand side of the CLS building
(281) 740-7563

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