Managing Your Recovery During the Holidays
Whether you’re in recovery, know and support someone who is or work in the substance abuse treatment field, it is important to acknowledge and validate the difficulties the holidays present for maintaining sobriety and explore some ways to cope with these challenges.
As wonderful as the holiday season can be, it can create stress for us all and be especially daunting and challenging for those in recovery. In early recovery, holidays may be the first time they are expected to attend functions and family gatherings where drinking and using are taking place and temptation and pressure to participate abounds. Addictive thought patterns may arise, such as rationalizing wanting to make a joyous time even better, justifying having “just 1” for the holidays, or using feelings of loneliness, stress or depression as an excuse to drink or use.
With some planning and preparation, even sober holidays can be fun and memorable, without jeopardizing sobriety. Here are some tips for managing your recovery during the holiday season:
Set your boundaries and remember recovery comes first! There’s a saying that anything you put before your recovery, you lose. And that’s true during the holidays, too. It’s okay to be selective about which invitations you accept. Don’t be pressured into drinking and using situations if you’re not ready. Missed parties and hurt feelings will pass. But sobriety must remain your number one priority.
Don’t go to Parties Alone
If you do plan attend holiday parties, it is a good idea to bring a close friend or sponsor who can help you resist temptation. Let your sponsor or support person know where you’ll be and check-in regularly during the event. Be prepared for how you will refuse offers to drink or use in a clear and assertive way. Drive separately in case you need to make an early exit. Avoid treats like rum balls and questionable punch bowls.
Holidays are notorious for stress, which can lead to relapse. Remember to practice self-care even during this busy time of year. The word “HALT” reminds those in early recovery to avoid becoming hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Fatigue and overwhelming emotions can make it harder to fight off cravings and cause you to succumb to temptation. No matter how busy you are with holiday activities, plan some downtime into each day and get plenty of rest at night. Surround yourself with positive support people and nourish your body.
Always Make Time for a Meeting
Last, but certainly not least, no matter how busy the season gets, plan a meeting into your day. Luckily, AA and NA don’t take a break for the holidays. Look for seasonal parties and get-togethers full of fellowship, gratitude and support. Explore the real spirit of giving that is embraced in the 12th step.
Despite the unique challenges the holidays present, the best way to maintain your sobriety during this season is the same way you approach your recovery all year long… one day at a time.
About the Author
Amanda Swartzlender, LMHC has been a therapist at Lakeview Health for over five years and currently facilitates the Holistic Recovery program, embracing a mind/body/spirit approach to recovery as well as providing surf therapy. She is the owner of a holistic wellness center and psychotherapy practice, Pure Balance Wellness & Yoga and co-founder of the non-profit organization Project Balance.
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