The holidays can be a trying time for those in recovery. In The Rooms co-founder Ron Tannebaum agrees –“[it’s] a slippery slope, and there can be a lot of alcohol or drugs involved.” Being around so much family can be difficult too, as past resentment or trauma can once again rear their ugly heads. Thankfully, the holidays don’t have to be so stress-laden.
We’ve compiled helpful tips and tools (including In The Rooms’ holiday meetings!) from around the web to help you get through the next few weeks. Recovery is hard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look for help. Read ahead to see how to flourish before, during and after the holiday.
Before The Holiday
1. Plan activities that don’t revolve around substances.
Most holiday activities (like Christmas parties or Thanksgiving gatherings) seem to have alcohol involved. But it doesn’t need to be that way – try planning some of your own holiday activities that don’t involve substances, like ice skating or Christmas caroling. This can be a great way to get in the holiday spirit without the temptation of alcohol or drugs.
2. Be of service.
Another great way to get in the Christmas spirit is by serving others. Consider serving holiday meals at a homeless shelter, helping with a Meals on Wheels service or inviting a friend to a meeting. If you’re in recovery, you’ve come a long way, and plenty of people have probably helped you along the way – time to do the same for others.
3. Prepare some sober strategies.
Before the craziness of the holiday begins, take some time to figure out how you’ll approach things. Maybe that means planning to attend a meeting beforehand, bringing a sober friend along or taking your favorite recovery book to the event so that you can be reminded of why you’re doing this.
4. Think of an elevator speech.
Speaking of recovery strategies, it’s also a good idea to know what you’ll say once you get asked the inevitable “Why don’t you drink/How is sobriety going” query. Doing this ahead of time will help you feel less frazzled if you’re put on the spot.
During The Holiday
1. Adjust your attitude.
Even if you’re dreading a situation or gathering, try not to go into it with a spirit of defensiveness. This can make even little mistakes or tiny discomforts feel so much worse. Instead, approach the holiday with an open and positive mind, hoping for the best.
2. Limit your time with stressful people and situations.
You have a right not to spend too much time with the sibling that pushes all your buttons, or the grandparent who sneers at your sobriety. If you do get stuck with them, keep conversations short and to the point – it’s important to know your boundaries and work within them, for your recovery’s sake. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation agrees: “Much of relapse prevention is having an awareness of the people, places or things that could trigger trouble and planning strategies for staying sober given those inevitable situations.”
3. Know what’s in your cup.
If people offer you a drink or bring you one, make sure you know what’s in it. Not everyone may know you’re not drinking, and someone might accidentally pour you something stronger than festive punch. Better yet, try to keep a non-alcoholic drink in your hand throughout the holiday – it’ll limit the people who try and give you one themselves.
4. Remember H.A.L.T.
Check on yourself throughout the day. The Recovery Research Institute recommends using the “H.A.L.T” method, which looks at if you’re hungry, angry/irritable, lonely, or tired and offers steps to combat those feelings. If you need time alone to take care of yourself, don’t be afraid to take it.
5. Attend meetings!
Did you know you can still attend your meetings? In addition to local meetings, you can also attend a live online meeting at In The Rooms during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. This means that if the holiday gets to be too much, or if you just need a break, the In The Rooms community is waiting for you. “We do this so people have a safe and secure place to be during the holidays,” says co-founder Ron Tannebaum. “Feeling safe and secure is so important.”
After The Holiday
1. It’s time for some self-care.
You did it! You made it through one of the most stressful times of year, and it’s time to relax. Do what takes you to your happy place – drinking your favorite coffee, getting a massage, hanging out with close friends. Now’s the time to give yourself a break. “This is the time, right now to surround yourself with positive, loving people in recovery that you feel safe with,” says Ester Nicholson of Soul Recovery.
2. You’re not in the clear yet.
You may still be a bit fragile, so make sure you still do the things you need for continued recovery, like attending meetings and talking with your sponsor. “Some people in recovery are vulnerable to substance abuse relapse after the holidays. The buildup of stress and resentment that might come with the holidays can lead to rationalizations, denial and relapse … Remember, the disease of addiction is as powerful the day after a holiday as it is the day of and the day before,” says the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
Keep taking things one day at a time, and remember how far you’ve come. Never forget that you’ll always have a place at In The Rooms. Our holiday meetings will provide the support and comfort you’ll need during this stressful time.
The AA meeting will start at 6 AM on Thanksgiving Day and end at midnight, the NA meeting will start at 1 PM and end at 11 PM, and the ACA meeting will start at 11 AM and end at 11 PM. All times are EST. Additional holiday meetings will take place on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.