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The time period we are fast approaching, Thanksgiving through New Year’s, can be one of the most tempting and stressful for recovering alcoholics. According to a 2012 survey by OASAS, about 10% of all American adults are trying to overcome an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Not only is drinking often the central activity during these celebrations but people tend to exasperate things this time of year by deviating from their normal routines with the days off, family get-togethers and parties galore. It can also be a highly charged time when family tensions skyrocket during the planning of events or the actual time spent together. All the temptation and stress can lead to relapse for individuals not prepared to stick with their goal to remain sober.

To remain on course, it’s important to emphasize that now more than ever is the time to focus on recovery. Put yourself first and take the time to re-read inspirational books, surround yourself with supportive loved ones, increase your attendance at AA meetings, and even take an online alcohol awareness class to review why and how to stay sober. Remember that addiction is a lifelong challenge and learning new techniques to help with your sobriety will always be highly beneficial.

For some, avoiding the parties altogether is the best bet, but for others the isolation can cause depression. Individuals who are struggling with alcoholism should have a plan in place to help get through the season. Here are some tips to consider:

1. Make a list of people to call in case the temptation becomes overpowering.

2. If you do go to a party, drive your own car so you don’t have to depend on anyone else. This gives you the freedom to leave if you start feeling stressed or tempted to drink.

3. The holidays can be a difficult for everyone, even those without abuse issues. Family celebrations can often force people to get together even when there is unresolved animosity. Add alcohol to the mix and drama often arises. Don’t allow yourself to get drawn into the antics. Get away by going for a walk, offering to run an errand or by hopping into your own car to make the escape.

4. If you are going “home” for the holidays, you may run into old friends that you used to drink with, or end up at an old favorite bar. It’s a time when recovering addicts might think they’ll have just “one” for old times sake. Don’t fall into this trap. If you truly want to stay sober, don’t spend time with these people or be coaxed to hanging out in that venue. One will lead to another, and another…

5. Be prepared to have a quick reply when the host at a party asks if you want a drink or pesters you to join him with one. The best approach is to keep it short and just say that you don’t drink alcohol.

6. Come prepared with your own favorite non-alcoholic drink just in case there is nothing available at the party.

7. Arrive early and leave early. People tend to get more inebriated as the night wears on. Make your exit before things start to get sloppy.

8. Spend your available time volunteering to help others. This is really what the season is all about, and can help to take your mind off your own worries and build your self-worth.