The halls are being decked with boughs of holly, the goose is getting fat and presents are being bought and bundled away in preparation for the Christmas tree. It is a time of joy, connecting with your loved ones and remembering all the fantastic things that have happened in the last 12 months: a time of love, peace, sparkle, pantomime, magic and mistletoe.

But this is real life, not some Disney parade and what if Christmas is a time that presses all your sober-life buttons? What if each decorated shop front is just a reminder of all the things that you can’t afford, or presents you can’t buy for your estranged family member’s, or people who have passed. Or less sad but much more maddening is the triggering presence of actual relatives, lumped together in a powder keg of gene pool madness all tripping over crazy character defects and age old resentments frequently made more terrifying by the addition of free flowing booze.

Christmas and New Year are a challenge for any sober soul, temptations abound in the form of office parties, stressed out families, red bank balances and if Santa is entitled to a glass of port at every house why in hell’s name aren’t you? Isn’t the festive season a time to treat yourself to a cheeky little snifter of whatever your favourite poison is? Well, no, not for the addict or alcoholic in recovery it isn’t, that’s a mind-set that needs to be changed toot sweet!

There are plenty of ways that you can treat yourself with kindness and respect during this time of year,  it’s really important to keep connected to your program of recovery – whatever that may be. So here is a quick check list of things that you can do to make sure you stay on the straight and narrow.

Stay grateful

Get out of the crazy commercial nonsense that surrounds the modern day Christmas spirit and return to a humbler time, a time where the simple things matter. Be grateful for the small things, a beautiful sunrise, hot showers on a cold day, clean towels and a warm bed. Write this out and never underestimate the power of the pen, it is indeed mightier that the sword.

Do something to help someone else

Another way to give your gratitude factor a boost is do something that really helps people less fortunate than you. There are lots of ways to do this over the festive seasons whether it’s serving Christmas dinner to the homeless, taking toys to charity programs for disadvantaged kids, visiting people in hospital or putting together a care package for somebody who really needs it. This builds self-esteem and really puts some old skool festive energy out there into the world.

Pockets of sanity

Look for and actively maintain the people or things in your life that feed your spirit, don’t let it all go just because it’s Christmas. You need this stuff more than usual, the disease of addiction does not take holidays! So, go to that yoga session, meet your best mucker for dinner, sign up for a class that you have always been wanting to do (don’t wait for New Year’s Resolutions), set some time aside to read your book, take a walk, go to the salon…….the options are truly endless. In other words find a whole different way to have that cheeky little snifter……go on you know you deserve it. And more importantly use these things as a kind of Hansel and Gretel trail of self-care breadcrumbs through the festive season, giving you some respite from the madness of your family or the general stresses and strains of life.


HALT is one of those annoying recovery acronyms which is pretty useful at the best of times and seems so damn obvious that it is easily forgotten. In recovery the obvious often becomes…mmmm…..well….not so damn obvious so here is a quick reminded of what this quirky  little term implies and why it is important to observe it. HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired all of which are triggering feelings for the recovering being and need to be observed for what they are. These frequently perplexing little suckers can really catch people out especially during this busy and stressful time. So make sure you eat properly and don’t overindulge in the sweet stuff, connect with people, get rest and stay balanced. It’s really easy to be thrown off your game.

Getting out of dodge when you need to

Going to the office Christmas party, especially for the first time in recently acquired sobriety can really set the cat amongst the pigeons. In some circumstances, especially in the really early days it is probably better to just avoid this lion’s den, however when you do decide to take the plunge there are a few things to remember. You can leave at any time and if you have had enough, do just that. Many addicts and alcoholics somehow believe in the fallacy that they always need to be the last one standing – er, no you don’t. Also make sure that you have a recovery buddy to check in with because sometimes just a little chat to talk through your situation can give you a new perspective.

Beware of romanticising the drink and the drugs

The fancy foot work of this stealthy disease can mean that addicts and alcoholics romanticise the consumption of their substance of choice and Christmas is a really easy time to do this because it seems like people all around are making merry. Just remember the reality of being head down in the turkey gravy or so out to lunch that you didn’t even show up. Play the tape in your mind’s eye of just where you were before you entered recovery, evidently there will be nothing quixotic about it.

New traditions

If spending time with your family is thorny try to plan activities because it’s always easier if everyone is involved in doing something rather than just sitting around gassing. This could be as simple as doing a jigsaw or organising a treasure hunt for the kids or even for the adults. Cryptic clues, creativity and a good laugh really go an awful long way in the process of making new memories. Another good way of establishing new traditions is to do something with your recovery friends and once you start thinking about it there are endless ways to get funky with this, everything from a dinner to a Secret Santa. Really you are only limited by your imagination.

Christmas might glitter like the guiding star of Bethlehem or it may bring on a tsunami of emotional blue funk, either way staying clean and sober is the biggest, shiniest, most priceless present that you are ever going to receive. Don’t allow it to languish at the bottom of the toy cupboard unloved, keep it well oiled, keep it polished and drive it regularly just as if it were a sleek Aston Martin.

If you or someone you love has a problem with drugs or alcohol, let this be a time of new beginnings and give one of our experts at the Hader Clinic a call to find out how we can help.