Preparing for the Holidays
Holiday time can be very stressful for most people, and in particular for those in recovery. Not only is there temptation in the party atmosphere, there are also the feelings associated with memories of ‘less than happy’ family gatherings of the past to contend with. This can leave someone new in recovery feeling left out, uncomfortable, and even depressed. It can be a struggle, but don’t let that bring you (or your loved one) down and cause a slip. Here are some tips that can help you through.
Practice self-care – This can be a tall order with so much busy-ness around us, however we are far more likely to make bad choices when we are emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually drained. When we find ourselves running on automatic pilot our buttons can easily be pushed. We may say the wrong thing to the wrong person or we may find ourselves leaning towards taking the easy way out. The easy way out can often be a very slippery slope to navigate.
Carefully chose which invitations to accept – It can be exciting to see so many invitations to holiday get-togethers, but in recovery we can become overwhelmed easily at times. As well, many people in recovery have friends and family members that have addiction issues of their own and for that reason we may find that it is best to pass on these opportunities. It is important to think it through keeping our limits and our safety in mind.
You have worked very hard to have a sober holiday.
Rehearse – Know what you will say if you find yourself in the company of people offering you alcohol/drugs. Have that response ready and on the tip of your tongue. You can put yourself in a vulnerable place if you are caught off guard and not prepared to quickly respond.
Go late/leave early – If you feel that you are obligated to attend a gathering that may not be in your best interest, it’s a good idea to limit your exposure to the uncomfortableness and/or anxiety. Arrive as late as you can while still being respectful, and don’t stay too long. That way you will have ‘made an appearance’ and still honored your limits.
Use the Fellowship – Spend time with people that understand how difficult this time of the year can be. At a 12 Step meeting you will not have to wrestle with what to say or do. You can freely share whatever you may be feeling, without feeling like you need to put on a mask or worrying that others won’t understand. Many 12 Step groups organize special events and ac-tivities throughout the holidays to socialize and have sober fun.
Maintain your structure – It is easy to deviate from our regular routine and structure during busy times. For people in recovery however, it is extremely important to maintain a sense of normalcy and consistency. Although that is hard to do any time of the year as ‘life happens’, maintaining a routine as best we can, will help to keep us grounded. Use a day planner and make ‘to do lists’. This will help keep you on track.
Be grateful – You are sober! You have worked very hard to have a sober holiday and now is the time to count your blessings. Make a gratitude list. It will help you put things in perspective, bring you a sense of peace and keep you grounded and focused.
Reach out – If you are feeling that it is all too much, reach out to your supports. Call your sponsor, attend an aftercare group, stop by Tamarack, or go to a meeting. Don’t delay or overthink it, just ask for help. It can get you through sober and may even save your life.
Have a ‘safe at any cost’ plan – If you have a plan for when/if the unexpected and unlikely occurs, you are much less likely to need it. We have a greater sense of safety and manage-ability if we know we are covered should we find our sobriety in trouble. Know what lengths you will go to in order to stay safe and sober and have that in order if needed.
Maintain your spiritual connection – Whatever that means to you, should it be God, Higher Power, Creator, nature, or anything else that brings you a sense of wellbeing and peace. You may want to attend church, a synagogue, a meeting, a sweat, sit under a tree, meditate, take a mindful walk, or do yoga. Try to make this a part of your everyday life if you have not already. You may find that when that spiritual tank is filled, everything else will fall into place throughout the holiday as well as the rest of your life.
Here are some local resources you can access if you feel extra support is required: