The holiday season may be a difficult time for those in recovery. Spreading yourself too thin, high expectations and fatigue can all lead to feelings of being overwhelmed. Stress can also increase with all of the additional activities and time spent with others. You may be away from your support network and feeling isolated. What’s more, many holiday memories and events may be associated with alcohol or drug use and this can create vulnerabilities. So how can you avoid holiday relapse?
Here are some ways for those in recovery to prepare for any high risk situations or events during the holidays and to give oneself and those you love the best gift ever this season: Continued recovery through sobriety!
1. Create a support system before each event
In order to protect your sobriety it is helpful to create a plan for each event you will be attending.
- Bring your sponsor, a close friend or a friend in recovery along with you.
- Attend a 12-Step Meeting before or after an event.
- Set up a time to call your sponsor or a friend in recovery before and after the event to maintain accountability.
- It is important to have your own or dependable transportation so you can leave when you want to and are not relying on others for transportation.
- It is essential to limit your time in stressful situations or around people you find difficult to engage with.
- Finally, always have an escape plan so that if things are not going well you can leave.
2. Get a better understanding of the emotional complexities of “the holidays”
It is helpful to talk with a friend, sponsor or counselor about the expectations you have in regards to the holidays. The holidays will not be the same as when you were a child or when you were actively in your addiction. People have the tendency to feel more stressed, tired, may even be depressed during the holidays, or reliving past holiday disappointments. Being aware of your emotions that are connected to the holidays can help you successfully maneuver through them.
3. Making the focus on others can be helpful
The holidays offer an opportunity to focus on others and practice gratitude and giving, which, in turn, gives joy.
- Work on finding ways to help others such as volunteering, reaching out to a newcomer in the program or spending time with someone who does not have family.
- Write a daily gratitude list to help focus on what you have and include gains you have made in your recovery journey.
4. Practice self-care
Give yourself the gift of self-care throughout the holiday season and take time for yourself. Feeling physically fit will help you to feel stronger emotionally.
- Take time to relax and enjoy each day one day at a time.
- Avoid H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired): If you are hungry make sure to eat. If you are angry find someone to talk with about it. If you are lonely, go to a meeting or call a friend. If you are tired then make sure to get a good night’s sleep.
5. Avoid situations that have the potential to create vulnerability
- If you are aware that a certain family member has the potential to criticize you, avoid them.
- If you have a friend or family member that drinks or uses drugs, decline invitations to be with them.
- If you are invited to a party where the main focus is alcohol or other drugs, it is okay to decline the invitation.
- Think about a situation before putting yourself somewhere that has the potential to lead to a relapse. Your life worth so much, and even though it may be difficult to say no, it is better to say no then to relapse.
- Plan to spend your time with family and friends who understand and support your recovery.
- Make a list of ten people you can call and talk to if you are feeling vulnerable.
Finally, enjoy the holidays and celebrate your or a loved one’s recovery journey and sobriety!
Patrice Cisco, LMSW, CAADC, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Advanced Addictions and Drug Counselor working at the Pine Rest Northeast Clinic. She earned both her Bachelor and Master of Social Work degrees from Grand Valley State University.