Tips to Stay Sober Through New Year’s and Beyond

Developing an addiction to alcohol or drugs is easy. It’s getting sober again that’s the hard part. Although there are countless resources available, part of the complex nature of addiction is that recovery requires so many different components, and even after receiving treatment it takes ongoing conviction to stay sober. However, it’s not actually as bleak or hopeless as it may sound.

Like any new lifestyle or habit, it simply takes time to adjust and become reacquainted with oneself while free from alcohol and drugs as well as strategies in place to safeguard one’s sobriety during those occasional times when it may be tested.

Sober Holiday Celebrations Are Achievable

Most people associate the holidays with indulgence and jovial celebrations. While it can still be that way for those in recovery, it also goes without saying that it’s a much different type of indulgence and celebration when you’ve had an addiction and gotten your sobriety back through the hard-won journey of recovery.

Therefore, it’s important for anyone in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction to know what to do when holiday festivities put them in tempting situations. Staying sober through New Year’s requires thought and planning. Here are tips for enjoying an alcohol- and drug-free holiday season.

1. Limit Time Spent with Non-Sober Friends

Anyone who has gone through the recovery process can verify that there are many people who are supportive of newfound sobriety and, inevitably, some who don’t understand it. Those who don’t understand tend to have the least experience with addiction, which means they can’t fathom how a person could be unable to control his or her alcohol consumption or drug use.

This can be frustrating, but there’s not much to do in such a situation except to avoid time spent with those who aren’t understanding of your being in recovery. It doesn’t mean you can’t spend plenty of time with them, but it’s obviously going to be best to gracefully bow out of accompanying them to any events that involve more than one kind of Christmas spirit.

2. Arrive Early, Leave Early

If you’ve ever been a college student or enthusiastic substance abuser, you’ll know that whether you’re hitting the bars or going to parties, it tends to be that things get increasingly more exciting as the evening matures. The main reason for this is quite simple: when it gets to be later, it means that everyone is already pretty inebriated because they have been imbibing for a while already.

If your intent is to protect your sobriety, it’s a good idea to plan to arrive early and leave before the drinking or drug use commences. You might miss all the “excitement,” but it’s also likely to be the kind of excitement that requires a near-comatose level of intoxication to enjoy.

3. Be Prepared to Make a Quick Exit if Necessary

Try as we might, there’s just no possible way to be prepared for every possible outcome in every given situation. It’s inevitable in life that we’re going to find ourselves in situations we would never have expected, and this applies as much to people in addiction recovery as anyone else; perhaps even more so.

You may think you’ve strategically planned your holiday festivities in such a way as to prevent yourself from encountering any sticky situations, but you should always have an exit strategy for the remote chance that you would come face to face, so to speak, with the substance to which you were previously addicted. So do yourself a favor and, especially when you’re attending holiday gatherings, be prepared to make a swift exit if it comes to that. As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

4. Create New, Sober-Friendly Traditions

While it’s good to have an exit strategy and to plan to attend holiday festivities before the booze is brought out, there’s also the possibility of ruling out the possibility of unexpected temptation altogether by hosting your own holiday event or events. There are seemingly limitless possibilities as to what your event might entail. For instance, you could invite friends over for a night of baking ten different types of cookies or have an open ice cream bar for everyone to make their own sundaes, or have the family come over to help you decorate your tree. Who knows? You might even start a new, sober tradition.

5. Drive Separately

Here’s a tip that you may not think about, but it’s extremely helpful. Driving separately rather than riding with others will mean that you could very well get stuck in a place where, for sobriety’s sake, you really shouldn’t be. Instead of being at the mercy of someone else’s schedule, you can choose to leave any time you please, which could even be the difference between saving your sobriety and having a relapse.

6. Say “No, Thank You”

If you’re someone of an extremely strong will, who has absolutely no problem resisting the temptation that comes with being offered the substance of your previous addiction, saying, “No, thank you,” is another potential solution. Granted, even with an ironclad will it’s still a gamble, but it’s a good one to keep in your back pocket just in case.

7. BYOA (Bring Your Own Alternatives)

Mixed drinks. They’re incredibly popular and bring an insane amount of variety to alcohol consumption. Some are simple, containing only a couple ingredients and perhaps a garnish while others have more than a handful of different liquors in very specific ratios.

If you’re someone who’s in recovery and can’t drink alcohol, there’s actually a way for you to enjoy the same mixed drinks as everyone else: Simply bring your own alternatives or B.Y.O.A. Obviously, these alternatives are non-alcoholic such as tonic water, club soda, or even something like Sprite.

While this strategy will allow you to continue participating, it’s obviously a bit more difficult at events where the other partygoers are drinking significantly more than a cocktail or two.

8. Donate Your Party Time by Volunteering

Here’s another option that’s infrequently considered: Ditch the booze-laden holiday festivities altogether and do something selfless such as volunteering. There are always many opportunities for volunteering, especially around the holidays. Whether it’s at a soup kitchen, wrapping gifts for Toys for Tots, or organizing a food drive, the feeling of helping others in need is a high in and of itself.

9. Plan Ahead

Executing most of the tips to stay sober through New Year’s and the rest of the year will require varying levels of foresight, so that makes planning ahead important by default. For instance, you can’t bring your own alternatives if you didn’t plan ahead by picking up some club soda to take to your company’s Christmas party. Planning is an essential part of recovery and is essential to retain your sobriety throughout the holidays.

10. Hit Some Extra Meetings

Last but certainly not least, attending some extra meetings as you head into the holiday season is always a great idea. In fact, this is a great idea year-round, but it’s especially beneficial in times when you feel your hold on sobriety is especially tenuous, including during any times of stress, worry, and during the holidays. Be sure to get some rest.

Call Us and Start Your Journey to Sobriety Today

If you or someone you love would benefit from a free consultation with one of our recovery specialists, call Pathway to Hope at 844-311-5781. Whether it’s day or night, we’re always available to help you or your loved one get back to a life of happiness, health, and fulfillment.

 

The 12-Step Program: Step 3 – Making the Decision to Turn to the Care of God

The 12-step program was created by the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, but it is used by hundreds of self-help organizations and support groups around the world as a way to reaffirm their commitment to staying sober.

Incorporating the 12-step program or a version of it into your addiction treatment plan can give you a road map to your new life and serve as a reminder that you are not alone on your addiction recovery journey.

What Is a 12-Step Program?

The principles of a 12-step program are meant to help guide those recovering from addiction and provide direction for continuing to live a sober life and avoid relapse. Along with the steps themselves, the program involves regularly scheduled meetings in a public place, typically a church or community center, and give those in recovery a place to share their feelings, fears, and anything else in a safe space with individuals who are experiencing the same things.

While initially put into use by Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12-step program has been adapted and changed to fit a variety of substance abuse support groups, including Narcotics Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, and Cocaine Anonymous, as well as non-substance-related addiction or compulsion support groups like Gamblers Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous.

The Complete 12-Step List

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step 3: Taking Action and Turning Over

What sets Step 3 apart from the first two steps is that this one, and all the subsequent steps that follow, is predicated on taking affirmative action. For Step 1 and Step 2, you are asked to engage in reflection and introspection, to accept that you are powerless over alcohol and are open to believing in a higher power and the help it can provide. On the other hand, Step 3 requires more than just acceptance.

The Third Step is one of commitment and decision, though perhaps not in the way that a person might expect, especially if they were previously unfamiliar with the 12-step program. The Third Step asks you to decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God as you understand him.

For many people, this step is understandably difficult, for several reasons. First, the realization that this is a decision that is entirely on your shoulders can be a scary one. At this point, many decisions will have been made for you, either by drugs and alcohol, your family, a judge, a therapist, or a doctor. But now, like opening a door, you have to make this decision for yourself, and no one can do it for you.

Another aspect of the Third Step that can make it tough to grapple with is that it can almost sound like you are meant to be turning over your free will entirely, though this is not the case. It’s more like deciding to stop swimming mindlessly against a never-ending current and instead allowing yourself to follow the natural flow of your life and accept that the higher power you put your faith in at Step Two will do a better job of caring for you than you have been able to do.

This does not, however, mean that this power is going to control or run your life for you, or that you can blame it for any irresponsible activities that you indulge in. It means deciding to change what you are capable of changing, and accepting that there are some things that you cannot change and must be left in the hands of a higher power, and trusting that it will be all right. If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s basically just a rephrasing of the Serenity Prayer, which is typically adopted at Step 3:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine, be done.”

Lastly, some people may struggle with the more explicitly religious nature of the Third Step, but that’s why the last four words are so important. It doesn’t end at turning your will and life over to the care of God, but to the care of God as you understand him. You are giving yourself up to your personal definition of God, whoever and whatever that may be.

In some of the more secular versions of the 12-step program, the Third Step is described as allowing yourself to be open to and directed by a positive spiritual energy, or making the decision to turn your life over to the AA program. No matter what you choose to call it, the task, and the goal, are still the same: making the decision to allow yourself to depend on something greater than yourself.

4 Tips on How to Best Practice Step 3

  • Be sincere in your commitment to turn yourself over. No matter what greater power you decide to trust in, you must embrace it fully, just like in Steps 1 and 2.
  • Understand that this dependence is not weakness but strength from which you can draw inspiration and motivation.
  • Practice mindfulness, whether it is in the form of prayer or meditation. This will keep you from focusing on the aspects of your life that cannot be changed that you have entrusted to your higher power.
  • In times of great stress or emotional duress, recite the Serenity Prayer. Even if you are still coming to terms with the meaning behind the words, just saying it can provide a calming effect. Let the prayer become a mantra you can turn to when you need it.

What to Remember As You Move Forward

Making the deliberate decision to commit yourself to making a change is hard enough, but having that change be turning your will and life over to something greater than yourself is even harder. You have to trust in it, deflate your ego, and understand just what this dependence means, and that this lack of self-sufficiency is not a mark of weakness. You can’t be self-sufficient while in recovery, not if you want it to work. You need the support of those around you, whether it’s family, friends, or your fellow support group members.

Much like the other steps in the program, Step 3 might not happen all at once, and that’s fine. Change this big doesn’t come all at once, and you will continue to work on it along with the other steps as you make your way through the program. What’s important is making the decision to take action to continue the work of the 12-step program.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and looking for help to make a change, we at Pathway to Hope are here for you. You can call us 844-311-5781 or contact us online for a free consultation and assessment that will get you started on your journey to recovery.

The 12-Step Program: Step 2 – Accepting Help from a Higher Source

Many recovering substance abusers join a 12-step program to reaffirm their commitment to their sobriety daily. Incorporating a 12-step approach into an addiction treatment program offers a foundation on which to build a new life and a reminder that no one is alone in his or her effort to leave addiction far behind.

What Is a 12-Step Program?

A 12-step program uses a set of principles—12 of them—to support people who are rebuilding their lives while in addiction treatment and recovery. Participants who join these free or low-cost programs attended regularly scheduled meetings in a church or other public place to share their stories and bond with others who are on similar journeys.

The groups offer a safe space for participants to express their fears, weaknesses, and personal truths while helping others who also are overcoming a battle with substance abuse. Twelve-step programs are part of recovery programs because they offer a foundation to grow from and help people focus on what’s in their control and what’s not.

Popular 12-step programs include:

  • Alcoholic Anonymous (AA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
  • Gamblers Anonymous (GA)

Alcoholics Anonymous, an international fellowship focused on helping people with drinking problems, was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson. The organization has served as the model for other 12-step programs, including secular ones designed to offer an alternative to programs with a religious or spiritual focus. Participants may also have a sponsor to guide them through the process

Here Is a Comprehensive List of the 12-Steps:

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

In the second installment of this series, we focus on Step 2 of AA’s 12 steps, which says, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

In Step 1, the recovering user admits that life has become unmanageable as a result of his or her addiction and/or compulsive behavior and that the person needs help with addiction.

Step 2 of the program addresses having faith that a greater power higher will guide users in regaining their sanity. Perhaps the objective of this step is about accepting that outside help from a powerful source can help a person break the chains of addiction.

The second step can make someone look at themselves and honestly come to terms with the fact they need help they cannot give themselves or get from anyone else they know. And it’s not help from just anyone or anywhere, but it’s help from a power greater than oneself.

For many addicts in recovery, this greater power is accepted to mean God or religion. For others, a “Higher Power” may be someone or something else. Members are left to interpret that as they wish. The main objective is to accept that there is some guidance that must come from the outside, and not from within. Some people may struggle with this. Other 12-step programs may tackle this step with an approach that also teaches that looking toward a greater power does not mean people in recovery must sit and wait for someone else to do their work for them.

Some will be reluctant to admit that a divine power may be what’s needed to end substance dependency.

It can also be said that Step 2 of the 12 steps is about having hope and giving oneself permission to have faith, to believe that divine intervention can help one get to where he or she wants to go.   

3 Things to Do to Practice Step 2

Keep an open mind. So far, if things haven’t been working out with the old ways of thinking and doing things, then it is perhaps time to try something different. Use this time to figure out strategies that can help you see the picture differently and then proceed with a different approach.

Define “Higher Power” for yourself. It is important for you to establish your belief system if that’s what will help you move forward in your recovery. If you choose to establish in your mind who or what is your Higher Power, be as clear as possible about who and what that looks like to you. You may find yourself drawing strength and focus from this clarity as you make new decisions, navigate new areas and make different decisions this time around.

Practice accepting help—and giving it. It can be as simple as accepting a thoughtful gesture from a complete stranger, such as when someone holds the elevator for you or the door as you enter a building. You also may want to pay it forward and offer to help someone else who may need a hand with something or share a tip that could help someone else get something they want or need. Giving and receiving are one in the same, they say, so doing both can help you learn to trust a helping hand and to be that helping hand for someone else in need.

Need addiction treatment? Give Us a Call

Twelve-step programs help keep countless people on the right path as they focus on leaving substance abuse and addiction behind once and for all. We at Pathway to Hope know how important it is that people with alcohol or dependence find a rehab program they can trust to meet their needs.

If you or your loved one is interested in entering a rehabilitation facility, call us today at 844-311-5781 for a free consultation and assessment. Just one phone call can start you on your way to a life of sobriety. If you’d like, you can also reach out to us online.

 

The 12-Step Program: Step 1 – Honesty and Acceptance

What Is the 12-Step Program?

The 12-step program and the philosophy surrounding it was conceived by Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and published in 1938. In the decades since, it has been adopted by more than 200 self-help organizations with millions of members around the world. While created with alcoholics in mind, it has been adapted and modified for use in dozens of different support groups for addictions, compulsions, and other psychological disorders, including narcotics abuse, gambling, sexual addiction, and more.

The essential premise of the 12-step program is that people can come together as a group to help and support each other achieve and maintain abstinence to whichever substance or behavior they’re addicted. However, the program also insists that this process cannot truly begin without first surrendering to a higher power.

While some have difficulty with the religious basis of the 12-step program, it was inspired less by a specific religion and more by psychologist Carl Jung’s advice to Wilson that the cure for alcoholism needed to be spiritual in order to be powerful enough to combat “spirits,” or alcohol. While he was definitely making a bad pun, he was still onto something, since the 12-step program has stood the test of time and is currently employed by roughly 74 percent of treatment centers.

The Complete 12-Step List

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Taking the First Step with Step 1

“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called willpower becomes practically non-existent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.” – Bill Wilson, p.24, The Big Book

Whether you begin the program in group meetings, during therapy, or at a residential treatment center, Step 1 is the beginning of everything when it comes to getting on the path to addiction recovery, no matter the substance or behavior, but it can also feel like the hardest step to take. This is in no small part due to the difficulty in admitting not only that you have a problem but also that you are powerless against it.

The idea behind this is, of course, realizing that your addiction has moved beyond your control and taken over every aspect of your life. In being able to admit this fact, you can start to move forward and, after working through the steps and with the help of a therapist, a sponsor, or other systems of support, learn to control your addiction and gain power over it. But this can’t happen until you can look at your addiction with honesty.

Essentially, Step 1 is about letting go and breaking the cycle of denial and addiction so that you can move forward to an eventual state of acceptance so you can get to work on getting your life back.

4 Tips for Successfully Practicing Step 1

  • Let go of your pride. In order to acknowledge and accept that you do not have control over your addiction, you need to concede that you have made mistakes, that you need help to combat your problems, and that you cannot do that if you’re hanging onto pride.
  • Understand that admitting you are “powerless” does not mean you are weak. Quite the opposite, in fact! It takes real courage to accept that this substance or behavior has made you powerless, especially in the face of the stigma of addiction.
  • Abstain from the substance or behavior to which you have become addicted. While this might seem like something that goes without saying, part of admitting you don’t have control over your addiction is understanding that you need to completely stop. For example, you can’t keep drinking “just a little,” because there’s no such thing when your addiction is in control.
  • Be truly honest with yourself and want to make a change. Just saying you have a problem because you feel like you’re “supposed” to instead of really meaning and embracing it will not put you any closer to real recovery. It is a difficult process, so you have to mean it and you have to want it.

What to Keep in Mind for Step 1 and Beyond

Hitting “rock bottom” is not a necessary part of completing Step 1 of the program. All you need to do is be able to recognize and accept that your addiction is a problem that you are currently powerless to stop. If you can have this moment of realization and acceptance without having to undergo a significant event like losing your job or alienating the people you care about, that’s already a sizable victory.

It’s also important to remember that while the steps are laid out in a linear list, they don’t necessarily work that way. Many steps can be experienced simultaneously, out of order, or in a circular manner as you continue to work on earlier steps even as you’re moving forward in the program. Everyone moves through the 12-steps at their own pace and in their own way, and you cannot measure your personal progress against anyone else’s. What matters above all though, is being able to take that first “step” towards recovery by being honest with yourself and admitting and accepting your powerlessness.

If you or a loved one is struggling to take that first step, we at Pathway to Hope can help. You can contact us online or call 844-311-5781 for a free consultation and assessment. We’re here to help you take the necessary steps to get you on a path to sobriety!