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Maintaining sobriety through the holiday season

How to navigate holiday parties while abstaining from alcohol.

MINNEAPOLIS — The holidays are stressful for many, especially those fighting addiction. Family, friends, holiday parties – it all piles on, so it’s important to be able to navigate festive get-togethers while maintaining sobriety.

"Protecting yourself."

Hazelden Betty Ford Chief Medical Officer Doctor Alta DeRoo said those are two very important words for anyone struggling with addiction. The goal is to look after yourself over the holiday season when it can be a challenge with social gatherings where alcohol is ever-present.

The key to getting through the season is to have a solid game plan, which starts by connecting and communicating with your sober community. "Let them know you’re going into a stressful situation where there may be alcohol," said Dr. DeRoo. 

Don't just show up to the gathering. Prepare to have people ask you if you want a drink or why you are not drinking and be able to tackle these obstacles. 

It's also vital to understand that you are allowed to put your recovery above everything else. "Go to a meeting beforehand or go to a meeting afterwards," Dr. DeRoo said. "Bookend your party with some sober community at the beginning and a sober community at the end."

On the way to the party, pick up some non-alcoholic drink options and have an answer ready to go when the host approaches offering an alcoholic beverage. Dr. DeRoo's number one tip in a social setting is to always have a drink in your hand, because empty hands are an open invitation for people to offer to get you a drink.

"It’s always nice to hold a drink in your hand that just may be a Coke, a diet Coke or something with lemon or water, seltzer and you say, 'No, I’m ok, I already have one.'"

Even with these precautions, it doesn’t mean being in a room surrounded by people enjoying alcoholic beverages will be easy. If it's becoming hard to abstain, having an escape plan is helpful. It's acceptable to slip out the back door and leave unannounced. There is no shame in knowing your boundaries. 

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