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How to Stay Safe In Early Recovery Over the Holidays

The holiday season is in full swing! Decorating, wrapping, baking, lights, and holiday parties! It can be such a wonderful time of year – with all the emphasis on family and friends, our December weekends tend to fill up fast. If it’s your first holiday season in recovery, you might find this a little daunting. How will you handle all of the parties and nights out? Especially when so many of these events focus on drinking? It’s easy to get caught up in this fear, but maybe we should look at these events in a positive way.  After all, it’s a great chance to celebrate your sobriety! Now, if you’re very new in recovery and don’t feel strong enough to be around so much temptation, than make the healthy choice and stay home, or enjoy holiday activities that don’t involve alcohol. But if you feel up to it and have a good support system, why not enjoy the festivities? Experiencing the holidays sober might even help you learn what your new life in recovery will be like. And after years of Decembers full of shame and chaos, your first sober holiday season can be a very special time for your and your family.

With that in mind, we spoke to one of therapists, Stephanie Banfield, at Bellwood Health Services to share with us some ways you can stay safe and enjoy the holiday season:

  1. Remember, that this is a personal choice and that your recovery should always come first.. Yet, the holidays can still be a great time to connect with family and friends you haven’t seen for awhile.


  1. Some tips for people in early recovery when planning on attending a celebration would be:
    1. 1. Arrive early. That way you can spend some quality time with the hosts before things get busy and crowded
    2. 2. Schedule a time frame so that you know what time you plan on arriving and leaving.
    3. 3. Bring a sober friend – you’ll keep each other accountable, and have someone in the same boat as you.
    4. 4. Arrange to have a phone call with your sponsor or another person in long term recover – before, after and/or during the party.
    5. 5. Provide your own transportation so that you may come and go as you please.


  1. The most important thing you can is be honest with yourself and your loved ones. You can also increase the number of recovery meetings you attend, as well as ensure you attend your aftercare program.


  1. If you are feeling triggered at an event, there are a few things you can do:
    1. 1. Take a breather from the party.  There’s nothing wrong with taking a walk to get some fresh air. This can help clear the mind.
    2. 2. Call your sponsor or someone from your support network.
    3. 3. Connect with a pet –  animals can always be calming.
    4. 4. Worst case scenario: If you are struggling, it’s time to leave. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to stay until the end.


Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube Channel Edgewood Health Network and Follow us on Twitter for more tips and stories about recovery.

StephanieStephanie Banfield ICADC, CADC, is an Addiction and Family Counsellor with the Family Program team at Bellwood. She has been working with clients and families to overcome addictions since 2004, initially as a Bellwood volunteer, and then as a Bellwood staff member from 2008.

Stephanie is a graduate of McMaster University and has completed her CADC (Certified Alcohol and Drug Counsellor) and her ICADC (International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counsellor) certifications. She has also completed two levels of PTSD training with the Hincks Dellcrest Centre in 2012 and her CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) Level One training.


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