How to Stay Clean and Sober Through the Holidays

Holiday Strategies for Staying Clean and Sober

People in early recovery bring all sorts of hopes and fears into the holiday season.  One minute we can be excited to be part of the family again.  The next minute we flood with shame about the past.  We can still struggle with inner loneliness and often feel apart-from rather than a-part-of family. We try on our recovery crusader cape and get ready to recruit others in the family.  Our emotions and energy levels still react like a roller coaster.  We fume and defend ourselves in our minds against the family that probably only wants to talk about our mistakes and won’t give any credit for our new sobriety – at least we imagine the family wants to criticize us.  Just to be prepared, we stake out a defensive position.

But really, staying clean and sober and sane through the end of 2018 has nothing to do with family or holidays.  We stay clean and sober when we are willing to try and to do whatever it takes to keep our sobriety.

Suggestions don’t keep us clean; our willingness to try the suggestions is what keeps us clean.

1. Go to bed clean and sober.

No kidding, it’s the only way to put together time in recovery.  Doesn’t matter if you go to bed clean and sober for the right reasons or for the wrong reasons.  Does not matter if you go to bed clean and sober with the right attitude or the wrong attitude. Doesn’t matter if you go to bed clean and sober after your mother kept her opinions to herself or your mother kept asking in front of the whole world why you have such bad acne.  Does not matter if you go to bed clean and sober having had a good day or the worse day of your life.  No kidding.  Go to bed clean and sober.

2. Go to tons of meetings

Go to tons of meetings. People whine at meetings? They tell the same stories over and over again? No one ever asks you how the meeting should be run?  Doesn’t matter.  Go to tons of meetings.

3. Binge on Netflix

Binge on Netfix. Seriously, we now know that humans are meant to find escape in binge tv. Otherwise, why would a major corporation be dumping 13 episodes of a series all at once on a Friday afternoon?

4. Stay away from old places and old habits and old friends.

Our disease will tell us that we’ve been clean long enough to hang out with that guy.  The disease lies.  We need to keep doing all the things that have helped us get and stay clean and sober AND we need to keep not doing all the things that haven’t and shouldn’t have been part of our recovery.

5. Reach out

Reach out to another person in recovery who is more alone and more fearful than you. Then the two of you together go find someone in recovery who is less alone and less fearful and just hang out, between meetings.


Watch out for the HALT times when you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Dehydration can be a bitch too.  If you are hungry, eat.  Lonely, call people in recovery.  Angry, forgive.  Tired, take a nap.  Thirsty, drink a glass of water. (Trolling your ex’s Instagram account didn’t make the list of suggestions.)

7. Chill

Don’t try to resolve your past during the high drama of holiday season. Holidays aren’t real life, which is why they are called holidays.  Wait until real life days to address your dad’s lack of trust or to make promises about the future or to make apologies about the past.


Practice the WAIT question: Why Am I Talking?  If you feel the need to talk, say to others, how are you?.  Say please and thank you.  If you’re a jerk, pretend you aren’t.  That’s not a suggestion to be dishonest; it’s a suggestion to be courteous.

9. Pray

Prayer isn’t an effort if we believe in some sort of higher power and then actually pray.  But what if there is no such thing as a higher power?  Why would we want to waste our time? Because in recovery we should become as willing to try prayer as we were to try a new drug. Very few of us ever turned down an offer to get high because we weren’t sure the drug was legit or because we didn’t want to waste our time snorting what might turn out to be baking soda.  Be as gutsy with God as you were with drugs.

10.  And finally…

And most important, go to bed clean and sober. Even when you don’t want to, or when it sucks, or when you feel alone.

Because the greatest holiday gift we can give family is the gift of time in recovery, the gift of racking up days.