Holiday events are a time of year that many people in recovery dread. If you are among them, now is a good time to start preparing your battle plan for defending your sober lifestyle against the situations you could encounter in the next few weeks.
SMART Recovery, a science based recovery program, suggests asking yourself some questions when considering attending a holiday event:
- What is the purpose of the event?
- Am I in the right place in my recovery to attend?
- Why do I want to go?
As shared previously on our blog, the holidays can be a minefield of relapse risks. After asking yourself the questions above, it is important to recognize the risk factors you are most likely to encounter and to have strategies for addressing them:
- Stress – stress exists year round, but it can be more pronounced around the holiday events, when people may be spending more time, money, and energy on seasonal events. Finding time for work, family, and other obligations is difficult enough without all of the added expectations during December.
- Emotions – baggage from past holidays and pressure to conform to the “holly jolly” season may leave emotions raw. Anger, sadness, fear, and guilt may be unwelcome and unexpected guests for many people in recovery during the holiday season.
- Environment – holiday events may be booby-trap with alcohol, toxic people, and places where trauma has previously occurred.
- Loneliness – one of the top risks for a relapse, loneliness can be especially felt during the holiday events when people who are newly sober may feel like they are on the outside looking in. They may not know how to celebrate, now that their old celebration habits are no longer available to them.
What struggles you experience will depend on your own unique situation, but you may find some of the following ideas helpful in preparing to stay sober through the holiday season:
- To Manage Stress
- Manage time and finances carefully. Don’t commit to more than you can handle.
- Don’t feel obligated to accept every invitation. Prioritize the events that will be more supportive of your recovery and avoid the ones that will expose you to pain or temptation. It’s okay to say no.
- Don’t neglect your self-care. Go to meetings, talk to your sponsor, get your rest, attend therapy, get in a yoga class, or do whatever it is that you do to feed your soul.
- To Manage Emotions
- Consider how you are already feeling before heading into a situation. If your feelings are leaning toward the negative before you’ve even walked out the door, that might be a sign that you need to do something else.
- If you do attend an event and your emotions are becoming problematic, it can be helpful to have a sober support present with you or at least available via phone.
- To Manage the Environment
- Are the host, the other guests, and the location supportive of your sobriety?
- Know in advance what you will say if you are offered alcohol. Practice a couple of different ways of declining.
- Have a plan for how you will leave if things aren’t going well. Consider driving yourself so you can leave when you need to.
- To Manage Loneliness
- If you don’t feel like your recovery can withstand many holiday gatherings, know that you are not alone. Look for other people who want to stay sober and plan a gathering or an outing with them.
- If no one can join you, keep busy with work, recovery meetings, hobbies, or volunteering.
At Fair Oaks Recovery Center in California, we teach our clients how to create and sustain a recovery support system that will nurture their sobriety during the holiday season and throughout the year. Contact us today if you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder or worried about relapse.