Avoiding Relapse on New Year’s Eve

Statistics indicate that between 40 and 60 percent of people who have quit drinking or using drugs will eventually have a relapse. Certain times of year are especially fraught with triggers and risks. The holiday season, with the added pressures, stress, and expectations, can add up to cause a slip. For many people, New Year’s Eve is particularly challenging, with its parties and copious drinking. If you’re in recovery from alcohol use disorder, don’t let this one night ruin the hard work you’ve already put into sobriety. Take steps and make plans to enjoy the holiday without alcohol.

New Year’s Eve is full of pitfalls for anyone attempting to manage their drinking. Whether you are in recovery and sober or just trying to drink less, this is one night that is likely to test all of your impulses.

There are two main strategies you can use to avoid a relapse this New Year’s: avoid events and drinking or make a conscious plan for staying sober in the face of other people’s drinking.

Decide which is right for you and then put the plan into action.

Consider Staying In for the Night

For some people, complete avoidance is the best option. This may be best for you if your sobriety is shaky. If you have just finished treatment, if you know there will be a lot of major triggers at events and social gatherings, or if you just want to be as safe as possible, stay home and avoid parties. Make sure there is no alcohol in the house and make plans to do something relaxing that you enjoy. Prepare a nice meal, pick out your favorite movies, or just hunker down with a book.

Get Out of Town

Another avoidance tactic is to take a vacation. Get out of town for a change of scenery. Changing your environment is a powerful way to avoid relapse. Addictive behaviors are often tied to a learned environment. What this means is that the physical locations where you used to drink have conditioned your brain. You have learned that being in those places is tied to the habit of drinking. Elements of the physical environment can trigger you to drink again. Changing the scenery by going somewhere new will make it much easier to avoid cravings or giving in to them.

Find a Sober Event

Maybe you’re fine with not celebrating the New Year in a traditional way, but maybe you really would like to take part. If you’re not sure you can safely attend a party with alcohol all around, look for a sober event. Sober parties are increasingly popular, and if you live in a city of a reasonable size, you should be able to find one. Check with your treatment center for advice, local community centers and sober organizations, 12-step programs in the area, and online support groups.

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Tips for Attending Events With Alcohol

If you do plan to go to a party where you know people will be drinking, a little bit of advance planning can take away some of the risk. Know your limits, though. If you just don’t feel as if you can resist cravings to drink, take yourself out of the situation. Avoid the parties or go home early.

  • Prepare and practice coping strategies. Research has shown that using coping mechanisms is a major factor in avoiding relapse. Practice your best coping skills ahead of the party and be prepared to step away for a few minutes during the party to use them. Examples of good coping strategies include deep breathing, positive imagery, and meditation.
  • Attend with a sober friend. Don’t try to go this alone. Avoiding relapse is always easier when you have the support of at least one person you know and trust. Commit to each other to avoid all drinking at the event and hold each other accountable.
  • Practice saying no. You may be pressured by partiers to partake in the drinking. Even when people know you are trying to be sober, their own drinking may lead them to make bad choices and pressure you in ways that aren’t fair. Rehearse how you’ll say no to people who offer you alcohol.
  • Always have a safe drink in hand. While at the party, you’ll be less likely to experience pushy people if you have a drink in your hand. Keep a soda or sparkling water on hand throughout the event. If you are unsure what will be available, bring your own beverages.
  • Bring games. It’s easier to avoid drinking and to respond appropriately to cravings if you are distracted. Parties at which everyone is drinking and talking, with no other activities, are particularly risky. Bring a few fun party games to get people involved in doing something other than drinking.
  • Have an escape plan. Be ready with a plan for leaving any situation that makes you uncomfortable or that threatens your sobriety to a degree you can no longer handle. Have a friend or family member willing to pick you up, or use a rideshare app if you are attending a party with someone who doesn’t want to leave early. Know what you will say when you need to leave or be prepared to simply walk out without saying anything. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your decision.

Know When Residential Treatment Is the Best Choice

Whether you have been through treatment already or are just thinking about it, now is a great time to embrace residential support. The entire holiday season is a difficult time for anyone struggling with drinking, to any degree.

Imagine battling through New Year’s Eve events and failing to stay sober—the regret, shame, and sense of failure you’ll experience. Now picture yourself in a safe place, with caring mental health and addiction professionals providing therapy in a supportive, communal environment.

Instead of risking participating in the usual holiday festivities, consider a stay in a residential treatment facility. Here you will benefit from therapy, creative therapies and activities, alternative treatments, medical care, and other residents who know exactly what your struggles are. Strengthen yourself for the coming year with excellent self-care and treatment.

However you choose to spend New Year’s Eve this year, remain steadfast in your sobriety. Prepare for your best year yet by practicing relapse prevention, making smart choices about what you can and can’t handle, and put yourself first. Finally, choose treatment if you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and keep in mind that many people need ongoing treatment to avoid relapse at any time of year.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward lasting recovery.