The holidays can be a great time to reconnect with family, spend quality time with friends, and take a break from some of the worries that pervade the rest of the year. If you are in recovery, however, the holidays can also be a time of high stress, constant triggers for relapse, and a period in which sobriety feels like a hopeless endeavor.
Here are a few different ways you can help yourself to stay sober and find the positive parts of the holiday to motivate and inspire your recovery:
- Take time to check in with how you are feeling. Whether your schedule is packed with commitments with (stressful) family or relatively empty (and lonely), the holidays can be an emotional time. Take a moment throughout the day to check in with yourself and notice how you are feeling. If there is anything you can immediately rectify in order to feel more comfortable (e.g., eat if you are hungry, remove yourself from a tense situation, sleep if you’re tired), then do so.
- Stay connected to your recovery. It is important to prioritize your sobriety all throughout the year, no matter what else comes up, and the holidays are a great time to put that into practice. Continue to attend 12-Step meetings, see your therapist, keep up with your medications, and attend to your growth in recovery.
- Talk to your therapist about challenges you are facing. If you find you are having a hard time dealing with the holiday season for any reason, talk to your therapist and identify the coping mechanisms you can employ to help you get through the rest of the month without relapse.
- Consider how much time to spend with family. It may be that you have warm and inviting family members who are tireless in their attention to your recovery and supportive of you in the healthiest ways possible, or it may be that you are like most people in recovery, with few family members around during the holidays either due to physical or emotional distance. Remember that you do not have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. If you feel your sobriety is threatened by taking part in certain family events, then give yourself permission to make other plans.
- Keep your finances in check. It can be tempting to give everyone in your life an amazing gift over the holidays or to try to make amends or make up for holidays missed due to addiction with over-the-top presents. Instead, make your gifts meaningful, and keep in mind that overspending will only cause you more problems later on.
- Take on seasonal employment. If you are having a hard time finding a job or if you are trying to get a jump on paying back debt incurred during active addiction, the holidays are a great time to find extra work. Added bonus: Keeping busy during the holidays may be a good way to manage some of the difficult feelings you may be experiencing.
- Continue working out. If you have a workout regimen in place already, do not let it go during the holidays. Not only will it help you to manage your moods and sleep better, the gyms are often less crowded this time of year, giving you lots of room to try out new things or exercise longer than usual.
- Make healthy eating choices. Like working out, this is not the time of year to stop eating lots of vegetables and lean proteins. With all the sugary treats floating around, it can be difficult to stay on track, but try to keep the overindulgence to a minimum.
- Know where the meetings are. It may be that some of your go-to recovery options are canceled for one or more sessions over the holidays, but there should still be 12-Step meetings and other support group options happening around town. Find out what is canceled, what isn’t, and fill up your schedule with new recovery-focused activities to fill in the gaps.
- Bring a sober friend. Whether you are headed to a work party where there will be alcohol, a family event that promises to be stressful, or just sitting at home bored and lonely, it can help you to avoid relapse if you have a sober friend by your side who is willing to support you.
How will you spend the holiday season? Do you have a plan in place to help you avoid relapse?