So, the Holiday Season is just around the corner. The Christmas and New Year Festivities bring to mind images of family gatherings and cheer, gift-giving and lots of yummy food while for others feelings of anxiety, stress, grief and, fear.
This time of year can be a challenging time for those not in recovery also. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation of Australia advises “rates of alcohol-related harms reach a high in the summer months, beginning from the last working day before Christmas.”
T’is the season to be Merry right?
Well, for those already in recovery or newly sober, this time of year can be incredibly challenging and overwhelming. Common triggers which may leave you vulnerable to relapse include:
You may be wondering how staying sober through the Holiday Season is possible. We are here to tell you there is a way to prepare and safeguard your mental health and recovery. It will take some planning, commitment and imagination.
Being aware of your triggers and planning ahead of time are some of the best ways you can prepare to enjoy the holidays while staying sober. Following these practical tips will have you fully engaged in holiday gatherings and cruising into the new year, substance-free!
With recovery being your top priority this year, allow yourself the space to pick the parties you would like to attend. Ask yourself, ‘Will this gathering be filled with connection and joy? Or will it be fueled with alcohol use and triggering dynamics?’
You may decide to say NO to that boozy end of year work function and YES to Aunt Betty’s Christmas roast. Run your schedule by your support network and ask for feedback. Feel empowered to make healthy, recovery centred decisions to protect your sobriety.
While your family and friends may have the best intentions when offering you that glass of wine over dinner, you don’t need the extra stress. These situations may lead you to justify why that one drink won’t hurt. Arriving and departing early from parties and spending little time with pushy people, it will make staying sober over the holidays more achievable. Make sure to surround yourself with those who will offer you the love and support you need in staying sober.
Participating in the Holiday Season when newly sober can be daunting and anxiety-provoking. Checking in with a therapist ahead of time could help to minimise emotional triggers as they arise during interactions with people and environments.
Learning to recognise your triggers and adding some new coping skills to your recovery toolbox will allow you to better cope with uncomfortable situations as they arise.
Bringing a sober friend to a gathering you are worried about is a great way to keep you safe and accountable. Your friend may notice you are feeling flustered and pull you outside for a little break and debrief. It sounds cheesy but ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’ Sharing your feelings and triggers with your sober friend can give you the confidence to remain focused on the solution and your recovery.
Nurturing your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being should be on the top of your priority list during the holidays. The high energy of seeing family along with travel can leaving you feeling depleted.
You don’t rely on substances to get you through anymore so find some quiet time throughout your day to meditate, check-in with your feelings, journal, have a massage or watch an episode of your favourite TV series. Find things to do that will give you mental clarity and make you feel nourished, no matter how busy your schedule is.
You are bound to be offered a drink or a drug throughout your new life in recovery. The risk of this occurring increases significantly over the holidays. To avoid any potential of relapse, you can respond to tricky questions by saying things like, ‘I have stopped drinking for health reasons.’ ‘No thank you, I am not drinking today.’ ‘I am happy with a Diet Coke.’ If family and friends are aware you a newly sober, you can gently remind them that you cannot drink.
If you have an incredibly boozy or pushy person who is not respecting your boundaries and you feel yourself beginning to fret, remove yourself from the situation immediately. Call a friend in recovery or your sponsor to help ground you.
Being busy over the holidays is inevitable. You may find yourself spending less time participating in your daily recovery routine. Let your recovery support system know in advance, which times and events may be most challenging for you so they can offer you extra support. Start a recovery group text where you can quickly access connection. Attend an in-person or online meeting or call a friend before, during or after each gathering. Tap into all of the support and resources available, so you have the strength to get through the holidays sober.
Finding ways to serve others can take the spotlight off ourselves and help us find serenity and gratitude during the holidays. Schedule in some time at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Make a traditional family dish for a recovering addict who may be spending this time alone. Spreading kindness to others will make you feel good about yourself and others.
Staying sober during the Holiday Season is possible with a little bit of planning, determination, honesty and cheer. If you keep your mind in the day and access your support system when needed, you will be many steps closer to long-term recovery. Each year you participate and practice, the easier it will become.
If you do feel like you are not coping with the holiday hype, please click on the following two links to find online meetings lists.
Stay safe and sober. We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
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