The holidays are stressful, but you can sustain your recovery no matter what pressures or stresses you face.
There are no times quite like festive holiday get-togethers. This season everyone will have at least one you-can’t-miss-it party, and you might enjoy it. But if you’re in recovery, how can you navigate the stresses of this season?
You’ll likely face temptations to drink or use. It might be that you’re the only one of your costumed friends without a drink in hand on Halloween. It might be that you can’t handle the stress of your whole family together at one Thanksgiving table. Whatever it is, you’ll need to prepare to stay the course before you face the decision.
Here are some things you could keep in mind.
Sobriety Means More Than Festivity
We don’t have to tell you this, really – if you’re already in addiction recovery, you’ve probably committed to it. Recovery continues today, you might say each morning. We only mention it because that fact doesn’t change during the holidays.
The flurry of activity, family and pressures during this season can cloud our priorities. Your sustained sobriety is a priority you can’t afford to lose between now and New Year’s Day. Take extra care to keep recovery on your mind, because your commitments might support it less than usual.
What does this look like day-to-day?
- If you think a party or event might tempt you to use, don’t attend.
- If your family stress is building, reach out to someone in your support system.
- If you’re feeling more alone than usual, stick closer to your peer meetings and explain how that feels.
Think of chess: your recovery is your king-piece, and you can move all the other pieces to defend it against the stronger pressures of the holidays.
Alertness Means More Than Resistance
There’s always the chance to say no if someone offers you a drink. There’s always the chance to call a sponsor or close friend when you feel the urge to use. That’s just resistance. But it’s not always reliable.
That’s why you can take your holiday recovery a step further and think ahead to when, how and why you’ll face temptation. Here are a few questions:
- Does a certain relative stress you (by being difficult or picking at you for your recovery)?
- Where are the places that trigger your desire to drink or use?
- Will certain people pressure you to use at parties?
Your holiday plans may not be this stressful. But if they are, you should think ahead of time about how stressful they’ll get. That’s so you can begin planning before you’re at the events. Here are three examples:
- Can I attend a meeting the day of the event? What about the day before?
- Can I hold a non-alcoholic drink all evening so no one gives me a drink I don’t want?
- Can I step outside any time I need to?
If you’re alert before you need to say no, you might have a better chance of avoiding the tempting moment in the first place.
People Mean More Than Events
One trap of the holiday season is that we can get hung up on the occasions – Halloween, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and all the rest. These specific days can be plenty of fun, but here’s a tip that might help you stick to recovery: value the relationships you have rather than the parties you attend.
To most people, relationships are what the holidays mean: family and friends in a season of celebration. If you focus on the people who support your recovery instead of on the events where they’ll be, you might reap the season’s joys while facing fewer stresses.
If they can work for you, here are some ideas to focus on your people this season:
- If you’ll have to be at a trying party to see someone, ask them if you can meet them somewhere more relaxing for you.
- If you’ll see a family member you enjoy at a stressful family gathering, see if you can both make time for yourselves beforehand.
- If you’re feeling alone this holiday season, see if there are people you can meet with (it could be a sponsor, volunteer work, or someone else you know will also be alone).
We hope all these tips aren’t too much. But more importantly, we hope they can help you enjoy this season while still sustaining your recovery. And if you’d like to learn more or find recovery community, look around In The Rooms. There are online meetings full of members who walk the same path you do, including this new holiday season.