Maintaining Sobriety through the HolidaysDo What is Best For You and Your Loved Ones

Welcome to the holiday season! The time of love, laughter, family get-togethers, parties, and seasonal activities every time you turn around. We look forward to the holiday season every year and we should. It can also be a very stressful time of year, especially for people in recovery. We cannot exactly eat, drink, and be merry like the season sometimes calls for us to do.

If you are a parent new in recovery, it is stressful wondering if you are going to have enough money to see your children smile on Christmas morning. For many of us, the holiday season can bring an increased sense of family responsibility and, along with it, additional feelings of stress. Advertisements about the joys of the season can seem lost on us as we scurry around trying to do even more than usual. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

The holiday season is a time to be extra vigilant about your recovery. Continue to put your recovery first, even if it seems selfish at times. Keeping your recovery on track is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Always Have a Plan

People in recovery understand that a big part of relapse prevention involves having an awareness of the people, places, and things that can trigger old behaviors. To prevent a relapse this holiday season, come up with strategies to protect your sobriety. Here are some examples:

  • Ask people you trust for help and support.
  • Limit the time you spend with relatives who drive you nuts.
  • Keep a list on hand with phone numbers of people you can contact day or night.
  • Decline any event you feel uncomfortable attending – you’re allowed to say “No.”
  • When you do attend an event, drive yourself so that you can exit if you want to leave.
  • Attend alcohol/drug-free parties and other social activities with local AA/NA friends.

Recovering addicts understand that the addict part of themselves is always there waiting for an opportunity to start using again. It can be something as subtle as the sound of ice cubes clinking in a glass, a visit to an old hangout, or the thought, “Maybe I can have just one drink.” The key is to gain strength from the parts of yourself that value your hard-earned sobriety.

Don’t get sucked into the illusion that you’re invincible to the challenges you will most likely face during this holiday season. Developing a plan for how to navigate your way through the next couple of months gives you the opportunity to make the best choices to maintain your recovery.

"No man is a failure who has friends"Stay Connected

Now is the time to lean on those who support your recovery journey. With the help of your counselor, you can learn to recognize holiday triggers so that you can prevent behavior problems before they start. If you’re a part of a 12-step support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), make the effort to attend extra meetings and contact your sponsor regularly. This community of support will be there for you when you’re struggling and challenge you if they notice you’re isolating. Consider bringing an AA/NA friend along with you to family gatherings or other social activities for reassurance, encouragement, and understanding. If that’s not possible, make a commitment to a friend or friends to contact them before and after an event to get the support and comfort you need. If you plan to travel, locate the 12-step meetings close to where you’re staying. Remember, you’re not alone, and being with others who share your journey and care about you is a blessing.

Being of Service

One of the most rewarding suggestions given to me by my sponsor was learning how to be of service to others. It has helped me become a better version of myself. If you find yourself, in that place inside of your head that all of us go to sometimes. Get busy being of service to others. Consider getting together with your support network and put together some gift bags for the residents of your local nursing home. I am certain it would brighten their day to receive a gift as they have been so isolated this year due to COVID-19. Being active in your community is a meaningful way to give back, acts of service could be something as simple as helping out a sick friend or visiting a family member you have not seen in a while. If you are able to sponsor, have them go with you. What matters the most is that you are stepping away from self-centeredness and connecting with others to create hope. Strengthen your recovery this holiday by lifting the spirits of others.

Breathe

The holidays can be stressful and emotionally challenging especially for those of us who struggle with anxiety and depression. Remember to breathe! I have always wondered how something so simple can be so hard. If you can take 10 minutes to yourself and take some deep breaths, it will reduce your level of negative emotions. Meditation and the Serenity Prayer are also helpful tools. You have worked too hard to be able to enjoy the present moment with family and friends without alcohol and drugs.

Take Advantage of Outpatient Resources

Recovery is a journey best taken one step at a time. If you find yourself struggling this holiday season, do not hesitate to reach out to us. Remember, you have choices. Have faith in yourself, be strong, and stay vigilant over your recovery. Just for today, we never have to use again.