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Staying sober at Christmas time can be tough, especially if it is your first sober Christmas or you’ve recently begun your recovery journey.

There are many opportunities to drink over the festive season – for example, mulled wine on Christmas, Champagne on New Year’s Eve, or Christmas get-togethers with friends and family.

Likewise, Christmas is the time of excess – a time when people spend lots of money and eat lots of food – and drinking alcohol is no exception.

Although drinking in moderation may be easy for some, it can be a lot more difficult for others to stick to just one or two drinks. If you frequently abuse alcohol or are in recovery from alcohol dependence, you may find it harder than usual to remain sober over Christmas time.

On this page, we’re going to explore some of the reasons why people relapse over the festive season, and provide you with tips on how you can stay sober over Christmas.

Why Do People Relapse During The Holiday Season?

Studies show that people drink more alcohol over Christmas. A study published in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviours collected data from young adults for 52 weeks to represent trends regarding alcohol consumption.

It comes as no surprise that alcohol consumption dramatically rose around the festive season. More drinks were consumed just before Christmas and around New Year’s Eve.

Alcohol-related deaths also tend to increase around the winter holidays. Data from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that around 36 fatalities occur daily as a result of drink-driving, with the figure rising around Christmas and New Year’s Eve to 45-54 per day.

Let’s explore the reasons behind this increase in excessive drinking over the holidays. There are a variety of reasons why it can appear more difficult to stay sober over the Christmas holidays.

First of all, you may notice others drinking more alcohol than usual, which can make it a challenging time if you’re in recovery and aiming for a sober Christmas.

Many people enjoy spending the Christmas holidays meeting friends and attending Christmas parties – and often, this includes alcohol. It can be far more difficult to avoid alcohol (and ultimately avoid temptation) when people drink alcohol around you more often.

Often, people will have wine with their Christmas dinner, and drink other alcoholic beverages around Christmas time such as Baileys, mulled wine, or Champagne. Around Christmas, people usually have time off work too, which can result in them heavy drinking to enjoy their time off.

However, if you’re in recovery from alcohol addiction, it’s important that you don’t drink alcohol and withstand the temptation. Read on for some tips on how you can remain sober over Christmas.

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Tips For Your First Sober Christmas

Many people worry that they’re going to relapse during their first Christmas in recovery, and may wonder whether staying sober gets easier – but once they’ve gotten through the Christmas season without drinking, they often feel more equipped to deal with the next one.

We recommend that you meet with your support group or assigned counsellor during the Christmas period. Sharing your concerns and worries can be beneficial, and the person you’re confiding in may share some useful tips.

Remember that it’s okay to miss out if you don’t feel comfortable being around alcohol and drunk people.

If it’s your first Christmas sober, you may be worried about the temptation of alcohol, and find it harder to withhold the alcohol cravings compared to somebody who has been sober for a number of years.

If you are invited to a party during early recovery whilst you’re newly sober, it’s okay to say no. However, if you do feel comfortable attending a Christmas event where there’s going to be alcohol, make sure you stick to the non-alcoholic drinks.

The same applies on Christmas day – you can enjoy an alcohol-free wine with your Christmas dinner or a few alcohol-free beers when spending time with your loved ones.

If you usually host an event over Christmas, you could always make it a sober party. Not all events have to include alcohol – you can host a great sober party with alcohol-free eggnog, 0% mulled wine, or of course, alcohol-free beers.

This first sober Christmas can be the first of many. Read on to learn more about how to avoid alcohol on Christmas.

How To Avoid Alcohol Over Christmas

Staying sober at Christmas may feel more difficult than staying sober for the rest of the year – after all, Christmas is a holiday and you want to enjoy yourself.

However, if you’re in recovery, or simply wish to stay sober over the festive period, then you mustn’t give in to the temptation.

You don’t have to drink alcohol to embrace the festive spirit. Here are some tips that can help you have a merry Christmas without alcohol.

Plan Ahead Of The Holiday Season

If you’re hoping to remain sober throughout the holiday period, planning your activities is essential. Planning and managing your time effectively can help to keep you on track to recovery, avoid triggers, and ultimately avoid relapsing.

First of all, be sure to inform your friends and family members that you’re not drinking over Christmas. This means that at parties or family gatherings, they won’t offer you alcohol which can help to relieve temptation.

However, if you are offered alcohol, you should know how to say no. Plan and consider how you are going to decline the offer politely.

If you’re going to parties or Christmas functions – for example, a work’s Christmas event, then it can be helpful to plan an ‘exit strategy’ so you can leave if you feel the need to.

It can also help that you spend time with other people who are sober throughout the holidays. Likewise, having support from people in local support groups can help you remain focused and encouraged.

Plan and check when their meetings are, or arrange meetings with your counsellor or therapist over the Christmas break.

Planning can reduce the risk of you making poor decisions or putting your sobriety at risk. It also allows you to put your recovery first, which is an essential thing to do over Christmas.

Attend Local Support Groups

Support groups are a place to share your story and confide in others about your recovery. Whether you attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or you’re a member of another support group, it’s important that you continue attending these meetings over Christmas.

Many people attend extra meetings or contact online communities if in-person sessions stop over the holidays. There are also many helplines you can call if you’re struggling to control your alcohol cravings.

If you’re a recovering alcoholic, there are many resources available to you both online and in person that can help you avoid drinking alcohol on Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Eve.

Some people in recovery prefer to go to recovery cafes – these provide a place to socialise without the temptation of alcohol. Recovery cafes are often run by people in recovery themselves and can be a great place to drop in over Christmas.

Be The Designated Driver on Christmas Day

Taxies tend to be more expensive over the holidays – especially on Christmas day itself. However, people will often pay the cost so they can drink alcohol.

Some people will even put themselves and others in danger and drink whilst under the influence of alcohol, which can not only lead to injury but legal problems.

For extra motivation to remain sober and avoid drinking on Christmas, then volunteer to be the designated driver. This will not only help out others (which is encouraged whilst in recovery) but help to cement your sobriety for the day.

Consider Attending Rehab

Most people don’t even consider spending Christmas in rehab, even though it can be harder to avoid addiction triggers over the holidays. Over the holidays, you may feel uncomfortable seeing everybody enjoy alcohol in excess, and worried that you’ll relapse.

Relapse rates for substance use disorder (including alcohol addiction and drug addiction) are already between 40% and 60%. If you are worried that you’re going to turn to alcohol over Christmas, then you should consider attending rehab over the holidays.

At a private residential rehab, you can relax over Christmas while receiving the treatment you need. Rehab is the ultimate place to avoid temptation – nobody will offer you alcohol, and you’ll be around others in recovery.

You can put yourself and your recovery first whilst at rehab, which may feel more difficult to do around friends and family.

You could also attend outpatient rehab. If you’re wondering about the difference between inpatient and outpatient rehab, our experts can help you understand.

At Help4Addiction, we can find the right rehab treatment for you. With rehab centres located all around England and Wales, we can listen to your story, needs, and preferences to find the best treatment plan and rehab facility for you to attend over Christmas.

It’s important to note that although there are rehab options for NHS patients, the waiting lists will likely be too long for you to get a place over Christmas. If you wish to spend Christmas in a rehab facility, private rehab is your best bet.

If you wish to stop drinking and cement your recovery, contact our friendly team of addiction experts today to learn more about the rehab process and to get the ball rolling on the admissions process.

What Does Rehab Look Like At Christmas?

Going to rehab over the holidays doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on the Christmas spirit. Most private and luxury rehab centres will have Christmas decorations around the facility, including a fully decorated Christmas tree.

Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas, there’s no denying that is it a special time and should be recognised as such.

Arts and crafts sessions may occur with a festive theme, and many facilities host a sober party for Christmas, with a variety of non-alcoholic beverages.

Some rehab clinics will have a religious aspect, and allow patients to attend a carol service or choir service. In some cases, day trips to local churches may go ahead.

Starting The New Year Sober

The challenge doesn’t end once you get through Christmas – as another alcohol-fuelled holiday is just around the corner. However, it’s entirely possible to enjoy NYE without alcohol.

Many people will wake up on New Year’s Day and have almost no recollection of their evening, or wake up with a horrible hangover.

This is not a good way to start the new year. If you’re in recovery, embrace your sobriety and enjoy feeling fresh while others are hungover.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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