Who said The Holidays were all fun and games? We’re guessing it wasn’t someone in recovery struggling to remain free from their drugs of addiction.
Family, food, presents, work, community events, and in some cases, travel can all add up to a huge amount of stress for anyone. Factor in an ongoing issue with drugs and alcohol and a history of turning to substances in order to manage stressful situations, and the holidays may feel like nothing more than an obstacle course with triggers for relapse at every turn. So, how can you get through The Holidays in addiction recovery with grace and strength? We offer you some tips here. Then, we invite your feedback or comments in the section below.
Ten tips to staying sober during the holidays
How do you get through the holidays without picking up a drink or getting high? Here are 10 winter holiday tips for people in recovery:
1. Start early
The earlier you start working on Christmas cards, planning menus, buying presents, planning travel, etc., the less you will have to do later when things are more hectic.
2. Take the pressure off yourself
You don’t have to buy everyone a gift, make it to every gathering, host an event of your own, or make this year’s holiday season the most massively celebratory event ever experienced for everyone in your life. You can instead focus on doing what is most interesting to you, within the grasp of your time and resources, and that does not make you feel like you need to drink or get high to get through it – or away from it.
3. Plan things out in advance
There may be a lot of people and/or things in need of your attention this holiday season. You can help yourself manage keeping up with it all by planning in advance for what you know will happen (e.g., buying presents early, picking an outfit for a special party or family event, planning out holiday menus, etc.) so that when unexpected things arise – as they will – you will have the time to manage them.
4. Just say “no”
To family events, stressful work parties, or any potentially challenging situation where you feel uncomfortable with the dynamic or your ability to maintain sobriety. It’s okay to put your sobriety first and skip your uncle’s Christmas party if it means staying away from a room full of drunk people.
5. Bring a buddy
If you find that certain mandatory holiday events will be stressful and represent a potential risk for relapse, bring a sober friend with you. That person can help you to stay sober and talk you through the hard parts.
Sometimes the problem isn’t all the people who are putting pressure on you, but the fact that you don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with. In that case, now’s as good a time as any to get out of town. Go on vacation. Take a retreat just for you.
7. Work more
If you don’t have a lot of holiday engagements because you are in early recovery and still somewhat estranged from family and friends, or if you need a good excuse to miss some of the celebrations that could be problematic, increase your hours at work or get a second job if you’re currently employed 9 to 5. There are lots of extra positions during the holiday season, and an additional job can help to keep you busy, and bring in some always welcome additional shopping funds.
8. Lean on your sober friends
There are likely other people in your sober circle who are experiencing the same difficulties you are. Seek them out and support each other.
9. Create a holiday-specific relapse prevention plan
Though you may already have a plan in place to help you avoid relapse, you may need to adjust it during the holidays. Some therapists or sober friends may be out of town and inaccessible to you, meetings may be canceled for the holidays, and you may not have the same support you have come to rely on.
10. Check in with your recovery more frequently
Try to go to more 12-step meetings, increase holistic activities like yoga, meditation, or journaling, and generally “take your own temperature” when it comes to your recovery. Then, adjust what you need to if you feel like you may relapse.
How do you intend to stay sober this holiday season? Leave a comment and share your plans.