Family gatherings, year-end celebrations, seasonal stress—there are lots of opportunities and reasons to drink, and drink heavily over the holidays. Yet, with a little planning, you can deal with these triggers and urges from a place of personal power.
Consider these helpful tips to successfully deal with urges and stay sober this holiday season.
1) Identify Your Triggers
Triggers can be both internal (positive and negative feelings, physical conditions like thirst or hunger) and external (people, places, situations). So, what “triggers” your urge to drink? Figuring out your triggers is an important first step in addressing them.
2) Manage Your Triggers
Being aware of your triggers is important, but it will only be helpful if you develop a game plan for dealing with them. And use it.
At CheckUp & Choices, an online partner of SMART Recovery, we’ve designed a series of skill-building exercises in our online program to help you manage and work through types of triggers including family, feelings, life events, money stressors, friends, places, physical conditions, activities, and types of alcohol. At the end of each trigger section, we provide an empowering interactive exercise called “If/When” where you can problem-solve. And also brainstorm ways for you to deal with those triggers.
For example, If Sarah invites me over for her family’s pre-Thanksgiving party, then I will volunteer to make a delicious non-alcoholic punch for everyone to enjoy.
It can take time and effort to learn how to best manage your triggers. Be patient with yourself, stick to it, and learn from any mistakes. Putting a plan into action ahead of time can help you deal with your urges when they come up.
3) Track Your Urges To Drink
Knowledge is power. Tracking your urges allows you to better understand them. The better you know your urges, the more control you will have over them. Tracking your urges can help you identify your triggers to drink. Just as the urge precedes the drink, the trigger precedes the urge. The CheckUp & Choices program provides an urge tracker, which is a great way to monitor and manage your urges as they come and go over the holidays. And you’ll be able to see your progress in dealing with them as they lessen over time.
4) Deal with Your Urges
There are many ways to deal with the urge to drink, and some will work better than others depending on your time in recovery.
Research has shown that we can improve our ability to cope with urges the more we practice. Click here to read more about self-control.
Some beginning strategies include:
a) Distraction: One way, especially early in recovery, is to distract yourself from urges. What can you do at a Christmas party when you get an urge to drink? Consider the following strategies:
- Walk away from the bar and grab some food
- Change the subject to sports or food
- Touch base with a non-drinking friend or family member at the party who supports your recovery
b) Drink Refusal: Realize it’s your right and choice to abstain from drinking. Make eye contact. Reply in a clear firm voice, “No thanks, I’ll have a (insert drink of your choice here).” If you’re with a group at a restaurant, try to order your non-alcoholic drink first. That’ll be easier than watching everyone else order a beer or wine first.
c) Avoiding Triggers: Ask yourself, “what’s triggering this urge?” Take a moment to identify the trigger. Certain people or places can trigger an urge to drink. The easiest way to cope with urges is to avoid the triggers if you can. For example, be prepared to leave events early, or choose not to attend stressful gatherings. Don’t drive by your favorite bar, and make sure your house is stocked full of refreshing, alcohol-free beverages throughout the holidays.
5) Prepare & Plan in Advance
Take some time to reflect on how you’ll manage triggers and urges during the holidays.
Imagine the different scenarios and visualize how you can use the tips above to respond from a place of power.
Create an action plan in advance and put a support system in place. When you’re trying to stay sober, having support from others improves your chances of success. Consider asking family and friends for their support. A simple “I’m taking a break from drinking during the holidays and would appreciate your support” will do.
SMART Recovery meetings (in-person and online) are a great way to give yourself extra support during the holiday season, and SMART’s self-guided, online program, CheckUp & Choices is available 24/7.
Prepare for the holidays by doing some of the prep work now. Click here to download a helpful Change-Plan Worksheet that will help you identify the changes you want to make and ways to be most successful this holiday season.
About CheckUp & Choices
CheckUp & Choices is a confidential self-led online program that has been clinically proven to help SMART Recovery participants. The “CheckUp” includes a comprehensive alcohol self-assessment. The “Choices” programs include 12+ weeks of ongoing motivational exercises, drink, mood and urge trackers, guided emails and change plans. With Checkup & Choices, you are never labeled and you will be treated with respect and without judgment. Get started with CheckUp & Choices today.
About the Author
Dr. Reid K. Hester, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, researcher, and the Co-Founder of CheckUp & Choices, serving as the Director of its Research Division.
Dr. Hester has published over 60 journal articles on the topic of substance misuse and digital interventions including in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the Journal of Medical Internet Research, and The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. A leader in his field, Dr. Hester is one of the nation’s most sought-after substance misuse experts. His opinions, online resources and research have been featured in The New York Times, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Time,Vogue, and Men’s Health among others. Dr. Hester received his masters and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the Washington State University in 1979.
About SMART Recovery USA
SMART Recovery’s 4-Point Program® helps people recover from all types of addictive behaviors, including: alcohol addiction, drug abuse, substance abuse, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, cocaine addiction, and addiction to other substances and activities.
SMART Recovery offers face-to-face meetings around the world, and daily online meetings. In addition, our online message board and 24/7 chat room provide forums to learn about SMART Recovery and obtain addiction recovery support.
For more information, please visit www.smartrecovery.org.