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Overcoming Hidden Drinking Cues This Holiday

The holidays are rife with things that make picking up a drink feel like the most natural thing in the world. Maybe it once was, but for you, at this place and in this moment, that urge can feel catastrophic. Suddenly you’re Scrooge. You aren’t drinking anymore. And alcohol drinking cues and all their roles in holiday togetherness feel a little like the ghost of holidays’ past. 

So how can you cope? With a little bit of planning and all the strength you already possess, you’ve got the tools you need to assemble a holiday toolkit that shuts down those cues before they can take root. Grab a friend, and let’s walk through them together. 

Prepare for All the Drinking Cues Ahead

Family visits are common this time of year, and with that comes a whirlwind of emotions and familiar habits from the past. This is especially relevant for those who have experienced abuse in their family household and are traveling back. Remember, context cues set off powerful triggers by simply walking through the front door. 

Readily accessible alcohol available at most holiday gatherings, combined with a triggering environment—more so if you used to drink in this house—will provoke some serious cravings for alcohol. Drinking cues are challenging for anyone trying to cut back or remain sober during the holidays, specifically those in early recovery. 

It’s difficult to resist a response to cues you aren’t even noticing until they’ve already made their way past your defenses. If you attend holiday parties, raising your awareness will be key to keeping your triggers and drinking cues in line. 

Examples of Common Alcohol Drinking Cues During the Holidays

  • Unsettling emotions, such as anger, sadness or anxiety
  • Being around someone with who you have a stressful relationship with
  • Any party where there are people who are using substances
  • Seeing commercials, television shows or movies that glamorize the use of substances
  • Eating at a specific restaurant or specific food that is part of your family’s traditional meal 
  • Advertisements for alcohol at the airport and passing by the duty-free shop
  • Flight attendants passing a drink to the person next to you

Many of these drinking cues enter and exit your awareness without much notice. This leaves behind a lingering urge to revisit the actions associated with them. One small moment may stick with you all day, whetting an appetite that you can’t sate without understanding how you got there. It’s frustrating. And can make you feel like you’re lacking control over your thoughts. Even when your actions remain in line with your recovery plan. 

Practice Recovery Mindfulness

Practice noticing those thoughts as readily as you notice the drinking cues. Observe them without attaching judgment to them. So that the feelings they bring up can enter and leave with the same fluidity of the twinkling of lights or the falling of snow. 

As move through the holiday season, spend some time with your support system, therapist or sponsor reviewing the drinking cues you might encounter and taking note of how they make you feel. Instead of focusing on how you might fail, focus on noticing cues. Your awareness of them may be the defining factor in defense. This can empower you to act ahead of alcohol impulses. You are still in control, and you are capable even when you’re struggling. 
The Ranch Tennessee is here to help you build the skills that will carry you through this holiday season and beyond. Call us today at (888) 969-7918 to learn more.

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