The holiday season often brings many temptations and social pressures to individuals in recovery. The added pressure to drink is a bad combination that brings unpleasant memories that makes the holidays extra challenging. Although it can be difficult to manage the stress brought on by situations that can derail the efforts to maintain sobriety, having a plan can help you through.
Below are a few suggestions that can help you safeguard your recovery during the holiday season. They have traditionally helped many individuals in recovery and might be useful to you too.
Stay Connected With Your Meetings and Don’t Forget Your Sponsor
Attending twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Al-Anon and Nar-Anon can consistently provide the support needed during the holidays when the risk of relapse is high. While AA and NA help those who want to get or stay sober and clean, Al-Anon and Nar-Anon can provide support to the family and friends of recovering individuals as well. Contact each organization for additional information on “marathon meetings” that run 24 hours during major holidays.
When you can’t go to meetings recovery podcasts can supplement – but not replace meetings. These podcasts can make you feel instantly contented to your program and give you a boost when you’re starting to sink emotionally. Check out iTunes for a variety of recovery podcasts.
Your sponsor is like your own private mentor. They walk you through the 12 steps and give individualized support when you most need them. They are your lifeline of accountability. Sponsors reinforce your recovery – they help to stay true to the principles of honesty, humility, powerlessness, and surrender.
Work the Steps
If holidays are difficult for you, working the steps can promote healing about past hurts. For instance, by writing a mini fourth step for difficult situations can help you get started. Here’s a list of suggestions to consider:
- Write about what’s bothering you about the holidays.
- How does this fear/resentment/hurt impact you?
- What assumptions are you making that are likely based on the past?
- Find your part in the situation.
- What could you do differently to have a better outcome?
Writing everything out on paper helps safeguard your recovery. Often, “journaling” provokes old emotions that have been buried. It’s like an emotional cleanse before heading into the holidays.
Manage Your Relapse Triggers
If you’ve experienced relapsed before, write out what happened that may have contributed to it. You can always learn from a slip if you’re willing to analyze what went wrong. That way the slip can help you avoid the same situation again.
Next, make a list of triggers you to want to avoid. Here are some common relapse triggers:
- Being with old friends that drink and use
- Going to any family or social event where the focus is drinking
- Stressful and difficult feelings that are hard to manage
- Feelings of loss or grief
- Past or present relationship problems
Your Recovery Comes First
Just because you’ve always attended certain events or took part in particular activities it does not mean you are obligated to continue in doing so. Recovery is all about making choices that will not put you at risk of relapsing. So, yes! Your recovery comes first.
The lesson here is not to avoid family events but just to pick and choose them wisely. By now you should know how to recognize high-risk situations and plan accordingly. To prepare yourself for those risks you can also write a list of the holiday events that trigger the desire to use.
Remember, it is all in the planning and sticking to the plan. Just because you are in recovery it does not mean you should not have fun. In town or out of town, getting yourself grounded and connected with your sober fun activities will give you a sense of relief that no substance can offer you. And if a slip happens it does not mean failure or that treatment has failed. Everybody knows that it takes time to overcome the obstacles faced during addiction recovery and make positive changes that stick. Failures are only a reset that can be part of the overall success.
Florida Center for Recovery
Clinical Excellence & Compassionate Care in a Healing Environment
Dr. Balta is the Medical Director at FCR for more than 10 years. Dr. Balta is Board Certified in Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, Certified Psychoanalyst. As well, as having Psychiatric Training at The Albert Einstein School of Medicine Psychiatric Residency Program In New York City and Psychoanalytic Training at The William Alanson White Institute in New York City. While working in New York City, gained funding Grants for the treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders from SAMHSA , HRSA and the City of New York.