Plenty of people out there will be celebrating Christmas in recovery this year. But, it can be pretty tough. On the one hand, you want to have fun and enjoy the holidays. On the other hand, the fear of relapse or backsliding can really put a damper on that holiday magic. So, what holiday tips for sober people can you keep in mind?
So how do you have a Christmas where you avoid relapse without having to lock yourself in your house? Here’s a seven (7) step plan to make your holiday truly magical. Then, we invite your shares about Surviving Christmas for addicts in the comments section at the end.
Step 1: Make a plan.
People don’t like uncertainty. Still, addiction can be fueled by it. Think H.A.L.T. Never try to be too:
Make a plan that avoids all of these things. It may not always be possible but do the best you can. The better the plan, the easier it will be to avoid temptation.
Step 2: Fill that calendar.
Loneliness and isolation are your enemy. Make plans to see clean friends and family often, even multiple times daily. Go out to dinner with someone. Seek parties where non-alcoholic Christmas drinks are on the menu. Or, just get out of the house and join in a healthy group activity. A full calendar makes you feel good and gives you something to look forward to each day.
Step 3: Do not skip meetings.
Your 12 step A.A., N.A. or other support meetings like SMART Recovery or Rational Recovery do not stop during the holidays. In some cases, there are actually more meetings. Get to plenty of them, they will give you that extra support you need.
Step 4: Sweat.
I do not care what type of exercise you prefer, just do it. Run, play sport, walk the dog, climb a tree (not the one at the center of town with all the colourful lights on it, the police frown on that). Exercise can help prevent depression, give you a sense of accomplishment and boost endorphin levels.
Step 5: Avoid dangerous places.
There is always that temptation to hang out with old “friends”, visit an old drinking establishment, or go out to a party where you could be tempted. There is nothing positive for you at any of these places. You only risk relapsing by going. So, say, “No.” This is easy to do if you already have a full schedule (refer to step 2).
Step 6: Take little steps.
Just the idea of never using again can be tough when you are stressed, angry or just wanting to use. Instead of trying to beat an addiction with sheer willpower, break it down. Stay sober for the next day or even the next hour. Often cravings only last a few minutes and it is much easier to focus on little victories.
Step 7: Have an exit strategy.
Always have an excuse ready as to why you need to leave an environment. That way, if you start to feel too stressed or you think you may be in a dangerous place, you can make your excuse and get out quickly. It is sort of like a “Get out of jail free” card. Having an exit prepared early makes it much easier to use in a time of need.
Please share your Christmas struggles with us
These seven steps are a great framework to help you stay sober but they are not perfect. Use the steps but keep your social support network around you. Your sober friends and family are one of the best tools you have to stay in recovery. They will lift you up when you fall, cheer you on when you succeed and be there for you when you need them.
Enjoy the holidays, and please use the comments section below as an additional support. In fact, we try to respond to all legitimate comments personally and promptly.