The holidays are meant to be a time of celebration and joy, of getting together with family and friends. For most people, the celebrations also come with moments of anxiety and stress. But for anyone recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction, the holiday season might be much less about joy and much more about navigating all of the triggers that might compromise their sobriety.
We Offer Some Practical Tips
Unrealistic expectations, busy schedules, difficult relationships, availability of alcohol, and financial strain can all trigger a return to substances as a way to relieve holiday stress. Still, a safe, happy holiday is possible when you know your relapse triggers and prepare for them. We offer a few practical tips to help you get started.
Have Realistic Expectations of Yourself & Others
Expectations are resentments in the making. When you expect too much of yourself or others, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and worse. Try not to anticipate outcomes or orchestrate them. Although the holidays can be a joyous and festive time, you will still experience your feelings, and they may include loneliness or sadness. Your feelings are normal. Holiday gatherings may not be perfect, and families may not get along. But always remember, you are only responsible for yourself; release any attempts to control what others think of you or how they behave.
Make a Plan for the Day
When you have a plan for each day, it is easier to manage your expectations and emotions. Think ahead about where you will go, who you will see, and what you will do. Just because you make the plan does not mean you cannot change it–but having a plan in place can help you feel protected. It can ensure that you avoid the places and activities that you know might trigger you.
Have Your Response Pre-Planned
Parties and family get-togethers are a big part of holiday celebrations for many people. If you are attending one and think you may be offered an alcoholic drink, be prepared with a response. A firm and simple “no, thank you” will most often do the trick. Providing vague excuses or long explanations gives you more time to give in and accept the drink.
VeryWellMind provides a few more suggestions. The key is to keep your answer simple.
- No thanks, I’m not drinking tonight.
- Yes, I would. Can I get a Coca-Cola?
- No, thank you. I have an early meeting in the morning.
- No thanks, I’m driving tonight.
- Keep a filled glass of your favorite non-alcoholic beverage with you and hold it up and show it to the person if they offer you a drink. You do not have to say anything at all.
Not everyone wants to share their personal life with others. But if you are comfortable being open about your recovery, tell anyone who asks that you are no longer drinking.
Learn to Say No
You do not have to attend every party, family gathering, or event you get invited to. It is that simple. It is alright to say no. If an event feels more like an obligation than a pleasure, politely decline the invitation. You do not need to make excuses or justify your answer. Making too many commitments leads to stress and anxiety.
The holidays offer so many opportunities for simple fun. Take advantage of them. Sing along with the holiday songs, go Christmas caroling, binge-watch holiday movies, or go ice skating at a rink or on a nearby lake. Bake cookies, decorate your space, or host a holiday party. Do the things that bring you joy. If none of the holiday traditions bring you joy, skip them. Create your own traditions and invite your closest friends to join you.
Practice Good Self-Care
Even though the holiday season is a busy one, make your self-care a priority. Keep your body and brain healthy by eating a nutritious diet, staying well hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly. Good self-care also includes maintaining your spiritual practice, remaining mindful, attending 12-Step or other support meetings, staying in contact with your support network, having fun, and giving yourself enough time to relax.
The holidays are very hard for many people. Give back to your community by volunteering for an organization that you trust. Whether volunteering at a local homeless shelter, giving your time at a senior center, serving meals at a soup kitchen, or tutoring at a community library, you can be of service to your community. You can also be of service in your support group by reaching out to newcomers, providing transportation to and from meetings, or taking on a commitment such as setting up and breaking down the chairs.
Help Is Available
If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, you are not alone. Help is available. At Anabranch Recovery Center located in Terre Haute, Indiana, caring professionals will answer your questions and help you begin your journey to living a sober life. Take the first step. Call us today.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.