One of the most profound sentiments I hear from patients in recovery from various substances is the sense of pure gratitude they feel on a holiday morning when they wake up knowing that they won’t have a hangover and that they won’t have to come up with excuses to leave their family and figure out how to get something to keep from being sick.

As the holidays approach, there are many resources published to give people ideas and strategies for remaining off addictive substances and—if you or a loved one are in early recovery—Congratulations! I urge you to start planning your strategy now. For anyone who remains ensnared in the nightmare of addiction, I want to emphasize that the holidays may be your best time to consider an outpatient detox.


Holidays Allow Time For Inpatient Detox

Many people will have time off during the holidays, so it can be a window of opportunity to seek medical treatment without drawing attention in the workplace. For people who are struggling with heroin or fentanyl use, it typically takes just 6 days to complete an outpatient detox at Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine and get onto the non-addictive opioid-blocking medication called naltrexone. We recommend that patients take another day or 2 at home before returning to work.

Detoxing from other opioids such as the pain medications oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, tramadol, etc. may require anywhere between a three-to-six-day timeline—again with the recommendation of waiting 48 hours prior to resuming work in person. We are detoxing many people off kratom these days, and this too generally takes just 6 days.

The timeline is a bit longer for people who are choosing to detox off methadone or buprenorphine products such as Suboxone or Zubsolv, or benzodiazepines, which require an 8-10 day outpatient detox program at the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine.

For people interested in a convenient outpatient alcohol detox, our program is three days. Patients who live near one of our offices are able to spend nights in the comfort of their own beds. Others opt to travel and stay in a nearby AirBnB or hotel.

All of our outpatient detox programs require a support person to accompany the patient. We recognize the difficulty of detoxing off substances and have built a program which includes using several medications to keep our patients comfortable, some of which may cause drowsiness. The support person will administer most of the medications, provide transportation, and be in communication with our medical team if there are any questions or concerns.

Please give our office a call to schedule an opioid or alcohol outpatient detox soon if you would like to use this holiday season to start your journey to recovery.


Suggestions for Holiday Sobriety

In the meantime, here are a few suggestions gathered over the years from people who have committed to being sober during the holidays. We at the Coleman Institute wish you and your family all the best this holiday season and in the New Year!




Ben’s Notes-to-Self for Sobriety

From Ben: “I remind myself every single morning how good it feels to be sober (and how great it will feel come January). I plant this thought in my mind every morning. I stick notes with this thought strategically around my home and in my car.”


Jerry’s Plan for Sobriety Support

From Jerry: “I do a lot more social outings and events during the holidays and I have practiced with therapists, friends, and sponsors on how I will respond if I am somewhere and get offered drugs. It is powerful to have practiced these responses over and over in my head. So far, it has worked, because I have definitely been in places where drugs were offered…and not just during the holidays.”


Beth Stays Busy to Avoid Alcohol Use

From Beth: “I carefully limit the amount of time I spend with relatives who make me crazy. If most of my extended family is gathering for the holiday, including my cousin who drinks like a fish, I am sure to only overlap a day or two. I try to get to my parents a couple days early when things are quieter and I can prepare some food. I’ll hang with the bigger crowd Christmas Eve, and head out Christmas day. This has worked so well for me and my husband!!”


Jane’s Research in Recovery

From Jane: “I know not everyone benefits from 12 Step meetings, but I find them very comforting, especially during the holidays, and especially when I am traveling. Being around like-minded folks who share a common goal of sobriety is beyond helpful for me. I do the research well before I arrive and without making a big deal of it, I let my family know that attending these meetings are on the calendar ‘in ink.’”


How Sam "Stays In" to Stay Sober

From Sam: “I know some people might say I’m isolating, but I am super busy much of the year, so I pretty much ‘skip’ the holidays. I have a couple of friends who do not have good holiday memories or traditions and they come (or don’t) to my home, claim a La-Z-Boy®, order take out, and we watch football!! We laugh about the guilt-free zone we’ve created.”


Alice’s New Traditions in Recovery

From Alice: “I have started making my own holiday traditions, inviting sober friends or friends/family I know are okay not drinking. It is refreshing to be with these people and we always go around the table stating what we are grateful for. Needless to say, our sobriety is always at the top. I get good ideas and inspiration for staying sober during the holidays from these friends.”


Shan’ee Stays Active to Maintain Sobriety

From Shan’ee: “I make sure when I visit my family for the holidays, we have plans to DO things, and not just sit around. It’s too easy for another drink and another drink and another drink to happen. Even though I now have almost four years sober, it really bugs me to see my family and friends centering activities around booze. Between holiday concerts, plays, service opportunities, baking, church activities, I keep myself and my family busy.”


Keeping a Recovery Journal with Suzy

From Susy: “I have found that journaling has been an incredible help for me to question my beliefs around addictive substances and behaviors. Before I head out for a social event, I journal what my fears and anxieties are. I try to be compassionate and be a ‘listener’ to my thoughts. I address my anxieties in writing, as if I were being a best friend to someone—and I am—to myself! Often I will write a ‘fantasy’ about going out and drinking and all the consequences that follow. That’s enough to keep me sipping ginger ale!!”


Bill’s Holiday Recovery Plan

From Bill: “I now prioritize traveling to a new place every holiday. I do lots of research and learn about the cultural holiday celebrations. I always figure out where a NA or AA meeting will be. My family understands this and I visit them during the year at lower pressure times.”


Angela’s Serenity Prayer for Sobriety

From Angela: “I should just get the serenity prayer tattooed on my body, but it is definitely tattooed in my head. I say it often, and double/triple during the holidays.”


Health-Focused Holiday for Jim’s Recovery

From Jim: “I am sure to incorporate exercise and plenty of rest over the holidays. When I was using, I was always ‘over-performing’ to keep people from suspecting how bad my addiction was. Now I bask in sleeping in, spending time to prepare healthy meals, enjoy conversation with dear friends, and working out. I feel rejuvenated to start the new year.”


Taffy’s Recovery Tip

From Taffy: “I find a good recovery book or recovery memoir that I save and savor over the holidays!”


Paul’s Openness to Recovery

From Paul: “I finally started telling people I’m in recovery. I got tired of saying I’m on antibiotics or I’m on call and therefore couldn’t have a drink. Nearly everyone knows someone who is in recovery and I didn’t want my friends to inadvertently tempt me; they have been very cool. It’s your choice whether or not you want to tell people.”


Lamon’s Alternative to Alcohol

From Lamont: “I bring my own beverage to any place I go. I was a bartender for many years, so I’ll often bring myself a batch of a great, creative mocktail.”


Dawn Steers Clear from Holiday Alcohol Use in Recovery

From Dawn: “I learned the hard way a few times, so now I know to have my own transportation and I don’t have to rely on or wait for someone who may want to party all night. If I don’t want to end up the designated driver, I’m clear up front or I’ll just take an Uber.”


Staying Sober and on the Path to Recovery Over the Holidays

I hope these tips from previous patients are helpful for you. Remember, the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second-best time is now. Schedule a callback with us. Here’s to a safe and peaceful holiday season.

Joan Shepherd, FNP