Recovery During the Holidays: Tips to Stay Sober

Baihly Warfield
Updated: December 21, 2018 06:09 PM

DULUTH, Minn. - The upcoming holidays are a joyous time. But they are stressful too, especially for people recovering from addiction. 

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Tammy Ewing, who is in recovery herself, says every holiday during the first year of sobriety can be tough. 

"There's just so much anxiety around how am I going to do this holiday sober?" Ewing said. 

She has three and a half years of sobriety experience. 

"I'm a recovering alcoholic," she said. "I insist on recovering out loud." 

She is deeply connected with the recovery community, especially through her role as a Substance Use Disorder Technician at Duluth Bethel. She also visits and mentors women in prison. 

"I'm uniquely positioned to be able to help them because I've been there," Ewing said.

But she knows that this time of year, it can be tempting to fall back into old habits. So she compiled a list of six tips for people in recovery and their loved ones to ensure a safe holiday season. 

  • Drive your own car
  • Have a safe space
  • Bring a sober friend
  • Be helpful
  • Don't worry about gifts
  • Practice gratitude

First, Ewing said driving herself to any event, whether it's a family gathering or a wedding, has allowed her an escape. 

"If you go to an event, a family event or anything else, drive yourself by yourself so that you can leave when you need to," she suggested. 

If you are staying with family or friends, she recommends having your own safe space to step away. During her first sober Christmas, her brothers rented her an individual hotel room rather than having her stay in a room with other people. 

"I love my family. My family's awesome. But when they started revving up the drinking and stuff and getting all louder and louder ... it started to make me uncomfortable," she said. "So I was able to remove myself and go to a room that they had arranged for me to have by myself."

Bringing a sober friend or having someone you can call on standby will provide a constant support system, Ewing said. 

And to get out of your own head, she has a simple solution: Just be helpful. 

"If you can't figure out what to do with yourself in a holiday setting, do the dishes," she said. "Ask if you can help cook the food, ask if you can help clear away, ask if you can do the dishes. Be helpful."

Finally, she said not to allow gift-giving to stress you out. 

"Your sobriety is your gift," Ewing said. "There will always be another Christmas where you can buy presents."

And her secret weapon for any situation is gratitude. She said if you stop and name five things you are grateful for, even if they are small, it shifts your mindset. 

"You can't be grateful and upset at the same time," she said. 

Ewing is grateful for a clearer future, which is something she wants for everyone. 

"Recovery is possible, and there is hope," was her message. 

There are many local resources online or over the phone. Bethel recommends calling the United Way 211 line, which can connect people with resources at hospitals, treatment centers, social services, housing and more. 

There are also places like the Twin Ports Area Intergroup Office, Celebrate Recovery, Narcotics Anonymous and Health Realization at the Damiano Center. 


Baihly Warfield

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