The holidays can be a challenging time for people in substance abuse recovery, for a number of reasons, and not just because of the possibility of being handed a random mug of eggnog! So, please, enjoy the holidays you celebrate, but don’t forget to put your recovery first. Here are a few tips to keep in mind during the holiday season.
1. Sober Support Meetings/AA/NA/SMART Recovery
They say anything you put before your recovery, you’re certain to lose. So, think about trying sober support meetings during the holiday season. Download Meeting Guide – Apps on Google Play for in-person AA meetings or for virtual meetings the following links are good resources: Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous | Building an AA fellowship anytime, from anywhere, for everyone (aa-intergroup.org) or Meetings (virtual-na.org) and SMART Recovery Meetings will even be available on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve!
2. Don’t overextend yourself
For some, it’s tempting to drive to two or three locations in a single day during a holiday. For others, overextending themselves includes putting themselves into financial hardship to buy gifts. Either of these can be a relapse trigger, so try and remember K.I.S.S. (Keep it Super Simple) and avoid this.
3. Have a backup plan
If you’re going to a holiday situation where you know alcohol will be present, it is important to have a backup plan. Think about leaving early, or at the very least have your own transportation, so you are not stuck in an uncomfortable situation. Also, it’s a good idea to have the number of sober support or a sponsor you can call if you might be triggered by others drinking around you. (Remember, sober support WANTS you to call- you are not imposing).
Think of your backup plan as a safety net—you may not need it, but, as any trapeze artist knows, when taking a leap, you’ll be really glad you put that safety net in place if something goes awry.
4. Dealing with Loss
For many, holidays can be challenging because of loved ones who have died, either recently or years ago. Either way, it can be difficult. If you know it may be a tough day, it’s even more important to remember to take it easy, focus on self-care, be with the ones we love and fondly remember those who are no longer with us. If having difficulty getting over a loss, consider grief counseling.
Many of us have a list of “shoulds” that come up during the holiday season. As in—our family members “should” be wonderful to one another, or we “should” have a perfect day. Whenever reality doesn’t live up to this ideal, we get disappointed… which can be a relapse trigger. So, be wary of “shoulds”!
The holidays are rarely perfect, and sometimes family members can be downright annoying. Keep your expectations reasonable, and if the holidays aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, focus on self-care instead.
6. Accept and Enjoy!
Find time this season for things that you genuinely enjoy. Lots of folks in recovery tend to have “people-pleasing” tendencies, going overboard for others at their own expense. It’s okay to find time for YOU. Make sure you do something for yourself:
- Enjoying a hobby
- Spending time with sober friends
- Watching a favorite movie or TV series
- Walking outside in the snow
Just don’t forget about your recovery. It’s a journey, one day at a time. And if you’re reading this, chances are, you’re already on your way!
– Robert Carter, MS, LPC, CADC