The holidays can be an emotional time for many people, but for those who have recently stopped drinking, navigating the holidays can be especially challenging.
What makes the holidays so appealing to people — catching up with the same relatives and friends and doing the same traditions year after year — is exactly what can make it tough for newly sober people to stay sober.
“Alcoholics Anonymous, which was founded in the 1930s before we had a lot of neuroscience knowledge, understood that we respond to cues around us,” explains David Baron, Medical Director at Yellowbrick and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The Chicago Medical School.
“Addictions have a lot to do with the dopamine reward system,” Baron says, explaining that addicts associate certain people, places and things with drinking, which they associate with feeling good, and that feeling drives their desire to drink.
So if every Thanksgiving meant drinking beer while you watched a football game with your family, just the act of watching the football game can make you want a drink.
“What people are feeling when they anticipate the holidays is because their brains have learned to respond that way, including rewiring circuits so they respond to those external cues,” he says. “Those circuits can be re-wired again in many cases, but it takes sustained sobriety over a period of time, and re-learning new, non-drinking responses to the same cues.”
Luckily, there are ways that people who are newly sober can go back into old situations and manage not to drink. Here are a few tips for how to stay sober (and sane) during the holidays.
Yellowbrick collaborates with adolescents and emerging adults, ages 16-30's, their families and participating professionals toward the development and implementation of a strategic “Life Plan.” An integrative, multi-specialty consultation clarifies strengths, limitations, and risks, and defines motivations, goals and choices.
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