Tips for staying sober during the holiday social drinking season

| 16 Dec 2013 | 04:54

With the holiday season upon us, ‘tis the season for family gatherings and office and holiday parties, all of which are sure to be flowing with cocktails and libations. But for the millions of Americans in recovery and suffering from alcohol addiction, ‘tis the season of temptation and it can be a nightmare. To help those in recovery navigate through New Year’s Eve successfully and stay sober, substance abuse and addiction expert Janina Kean, President/CEO of High Watch Recovery Center — the world’s first 12 Step treatment center — is offering several tips.

“The perception is that no one is an alcoholic on a holiday, this is the time of year to celebrate with friends and family, which makes drinking acceptable and gives alcoholics license to drink the way they want,” said Kean. “The fact is, research shows that relapse is a result of excessive stress for those in recovery as well as environmental cues that may remind one of their past substance use. Unfortunately, the holiday season provides opportunity for both scenarios.”

Kean suggests the following for those in recovery:

Avoid any dysfunctional family system, as many sufferers of substance use disorder come from dysfunctional families. To avoid the higher incidence of abuse, chaos and stress that come with such families, it’s best to avoid the situation altogether, more so if there is active addiction with other family members.

Consider recreating the holiday with new friends in recovery rather than re-entering the dysfunctional family system.

Limit the time spent at and/or invite someone from your 12-step group to come along to dysfunctional family gatherings (if avoiding isn’t possible) or holiday parties.

Focus on spending time with family members with whom you have the healthiest relationships and avoid those relationships that are ‘toxic.’

Have your 12-step sponsor on speed dial in case you need to talk to someone for support.

If you experience any cravings to use alcohol during a party or gathering, leave and find a 12-step meeting and/or call someone from your 12-step group.

During the holiday season, engage in more stress reduction techniques and activities like exercise, meditation and massage.

Increase time spent in 12-step rooms and increase sessions with your therapist to help you cope with any urges and added stress during the holiday season. Many communities have Alco-thons, 24-hour a day 12-step meetings, which can also be very helpful.

Be cognizant and avoid holiday desserts that are using alcohol. In the spirit of the holiday, many times chefs do not cook off the alcohol, but rather adds to or soaks the dessert in alcohol.

High Watch Recovery Center was established in 1940 as the world’s first 12 Step treatment center and inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) co-founder Bill W. is a leader in the treatment of alcoholism and substance abuse, and dedicated to providing affordable, compassionate and effective care to those suffering from these chronic diseases. The residential medical facility has evolved into a state of the art treatment program, integrating the time-tested spiritual teachings of the 12 Steps with the latest breakthroughs in addiction medicine to treat both the neurobiology of addiction and any co-occurring disorders (such as depression, anxiety or bi-polar disorder). Located in Kent, Conn., High Watch provides a tranquil and spiritual environment that is conducive to guests’ treatment. For anyone who needs help or would like more information about High Watch, call 860-927-3772 or visit or