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Michael Leach: 'While in recovery, maintaining sobriety over the holidays seems like an uphill battle.'

Whether this involves holiday work events or family gatherings, it can be tough to manage sobriety while in recovery. There is always a temptation.

In contrast, it can be challenging for most people to avoid excessive alcohol use over the holiday season.

People become stressed with relationships, grief or loss, shopping, finances, and seeing family.

While in recovery, maintaining sobriety over the holidays seems like an uphill battle.

However, despite relapse triggers and the crippling stress the holiday season may bring, staying sober is not an impossible task, whether you are in recovery or not.

A carefully considered plan makes a world of difference and is perhaps the best way to avoid relapse or overindulgence.

Before attending any work or family gathering, ask yourself things like:

• Who is at the party? Is there anyone there who could be a negative influence?

• Could I invite a sober party date or friend?

• What is my plan if someone offers me a drink? Are there holiday mocktails available?

• What is my escape plan if things become out of hand or challenging to manage?

"It has become more common at holiday parties for hosts to provide non-alcoholic mocktails," said Marcel Gemme of Addicted.org. "More and more people are wanting to avoid the negative effects of alcohol, especially drinking and driving and unnecessary arguments."

Asking some of these questions before attending a party makes it easier to decide whether you would want to attend.

Consider some of the following tips if you decide to attend a holiday party, work function, or family gathering.

Try to avoid vulnerable situations whenever possible. Whether in recovery or wanting to avoid excessive alcohol use, avoid slippery situations where there is temptation. There could be family members or another individual who feels the need to pressure everyone to drink and drink a lot.

Do not ignore the emotional complexities of the holidays. Individuals experience an array of emotions over the holidays, good and bad. When negative feelings begin to take over, it is critical to stay focused on the good. Keep positive and express gratitude; even write down everything you are grateful for as a reminder.

Do not be afraid to use a support system. The worst thing that anyone can do over the holidays is to be alone. Reach out to someone, ask for support, and call someone who understands. If you are in recovery, perhaps consider a 12-step meeting.

Focus on the holiday spirit and self-care. If there is one thing that most people avoid over the holiday season is making it a point to put yourself first. Do things that make you feel healthy and energized.

Finally, the holiday season is not all about parties, gifts and festivities.

Discover gratitude in every moment that passes and recognize your blessings. This holiday season, focus on giving and giving thanks. Share these fantastic moments and gratitude with the people close to you while enjoying the true meaning of the holiday season.

Michael Leach has spent most of his career as a health care professional specializing in substance use disorder and addiction recovery. He is a certified clinical medical assistant and contributor to the health care website Recovery Begins.


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