12 Dec 2017


The holidays are supposedly the happiest time of year, but that image isn’t really rooted in reality. The season of joy can be a long stretch of stress and strife, and for those who struggle with addiction, staying sober amidst the drug- and alcohol-fueled merriment complicates matters almost beyond belief.

If you’re in recovery, it may be difficult to accept that life will never be the same. The truth is, it can actually be better than ever – probably small comfort when you’re wondering how you’ll manage to remain clean and sober for the next few weeks. 

The secret to success? Realise that it won’t be easy, but the holidays present an opportunity to have some fun connecting (or re-connecting) with sober friends and family. Be patient with yourself. Get your priorities straight, practice healthy self-care, and develop a workable game plan.  


How to Have a Holly, Jolly Holiday without Drugs and Alcohol

The holidays are right around the corner, but the season isn’t always merry and bright for people who are in recovery or struggling with an ongoing addiction. Life isn’t always like a Norman Rockwell painting and there are challenges and potential triggers everywhere. Instead of feeling jolly, many people are isolated, anxious and depressed.

Recovery is Top Priority 

It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important when your planner is packed with a whirlwind of holiday travel and extravagant parties. More than ever, this is time to hold tight to your recovery. Remember that the season will end and life will soon pick up where you left off. 

Don’t feel obliged to attend every event that comes your way, no matter how spectacular. It’s okay to decline an invitation once in awhile, even if it’s been your habit to be the life of the party. Plan wisely and be choosy. If you know from past experience that an event is trouble waiting to happen, listen to your intuition and stay away. 

The holidays will be a whole lot easier if you don’t put yourself in risky situations. Good friends will understand why you aren’t making an appearance, but you’ll have an easier time if you avoid former companions who may be inclined to coax you into enjoying “just one drink.” 

Stay Connected with People who Matter

Some holiday parties and galas are nearly impossible to avoid. If you decide an event is worth the risk or if you must attend due to work or social obligations, bring along a non-using, understanding friend who can provide support. 

You may feel like the only sober person in the room, but there’s a good chance you won’t be alone.  You may be surprised how many people choose not to get wasted at social events. 

Stay connected with your support system. Those people will still be there for you after the holidays have come and gone.   

Once you’ve taken all necessary precautions, relax and have a good time! Mix and mingle. Dance. Laugh.  Just think: You’ll remember it all when you wake up in the morning.

Here’s to Good Health

The holidays can wear you out, but temptations are easier to avoid if you’re feeling well.  Get enough rest, take a break if festivities feel too stressful, and pay attention to your diet. 

It wouldn’t be the holidays without rich holiday desserts and it’s great to enjoy a little of the sweet stuff, but don’t overindulge. Like drugs and alcohol, sugar releases a flood of dopamine in the brain, which makes you feel good – until it doesn’t. There’s a reason why they call it a “sugar hangover”; when the sugar high wears off, you may feel fuzzy, tired, moody, nauseous and headachy. 

Keep your sugar intake at a reasonable level and minimize the impact of blood sugar spikes by eating  protein and fiber-rich foods. Order seltzer or sparkling water if socializing requires a drink-in-hand, or if you’re accustomed to toasting the occasion with a bottle of the finest bubbly.

Maintain a Sense of Gratitude

It might sound a little trite and old-school, but a sense of gratitude can increase your chance of long-term recovery. Research indicates that gratitude can help build positive relationships, foster inner strength, boost self-esteem, and enhance feelings of empathy and generosity towards others. According to Harvard University, you may sleep better, exercise more, and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll enjoy a longer, healthier life. 

Cultivating a sense of gratitude means something different for every person, but it all begins by simply directing focus to the positive and away from the negative. It isn’t difficult or time consuming to figure out what works for you. It may involve jotting observations in a journal, sending out thank you notes, volunteering to help the less fortunate, or committing a few moments to quiet prayer or meditation.

Staying Sober during the Holidays: How you can Help

It’s normal to be concerned or fearful that a loved one might slide off the wagon during the holidays, but you can help. Band together with other friends or family to build a steadfast system of support. Be there, but try not to fuss or hover. 

Think about creating new, meaningful traditions that aren’t associated with drugs and alcohol.  The holidays might be the perfect time to plan a trip to an exotic new location or experience a thrilling new adventure. 

If your friend or family member isn’t in treatment (but should be), there’s nothing wrong with getting started during the holidays. In fact, it may be the greatest gift of all. 

Jan Gerber, December 2017 



Jan Gerber is the founder of Paracelsus Recovery and the clinic's Managing Director.

Paracelsus Recovery was established in 2012 as a family-run clinic with one aim: to provide the best possible treatment and care, treating only one client at a time, in a compassionate, comfortable and luxurious setting. As a fully licensed clinic, our focus is to sustainably restore our clients’ health and well-being. We provide treatments for addiction and mental health problems, and we specialise in illness prevention and medical case management for any potential and existing physical health issues. 

We treat each client as a carefully staffed and managed project. Treatments and therapies are always 100% individually tailored to the client’s needs and wishes. 







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