Holiday season is upon us and the traditional festivities can come with some challenges when dealing with stressful family dynamics, unfulfilled expectations and holiday parties. What is normal to the rest of the sober world is now foreign and threating to you and everything you’ve worked so hard for. Don’t give up, you’re not alone and there are some ways to help you combat urges and backsliding on your way to the top.
#1. Plan Ahead
Mapping out your social events ahead of schedule will keep you from making last minute bad decisions. If you know that your family is expecting you to join them for Thanksgiving, then you can plan on coming to visit them sober and in your new headspace. No last minute stops to pop in and say hi to an old friend, you have people waiting on you to arrive. Stick to your holiday plans.
#2. Eliminate Expectations
One of the downfalls of visiting family during the holidays is the expectation you build up for the holiday events. Maybe your relationship has been strained with your loved ones and seeing them after traumatic events make you feel unwelcomed. It is okay to be a little scared, but try and approach them as naturally as possible, be humble and don’t be afraid of apologizing and explain that you are now in recovery. It may help to open some conversations and make amends for past indiscressions. It is hard to become vulnerable enough for people to see that you have truly changed, and you may need to give some people some time to come to terms with the new you. It isn’t fair or reasonable to expect an instant change from your loved ones to accept your new truth as gospel but at least give them the chance to see it for themselves.
#3. Support systems
Know who to call when you feel like you are having your “moment of weakness”, Ask your sponsor ahead of time if they would be ok with having you contact them, even if it’s on a holiday, may it be on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. Have back ups just in case they can’t be reached. Those that love you and support you will know how much it means to have your trust and want you to succeed in the difficult times.
Keep a list of your biggest supporters, write it down and put it in a safe space. Those names are in your corner; those people are there for you.
#4. Other ways to have fun
Make a list of things to do with your loved ones that doesn’t involve alcohol, ask friends to bring a board game or their new favorite card game. If you’re visiting with older relatives, ask them if there’s anything you can do for them while you’re there. Maybe it’s a creeky door that needs some lubricant or a stack of wood that needs to be relocated. Helping out can be fun, and doing something constructive can take away the temptations that idle minds fall victim to.
#5. Exiting when you need to
When you know that enough is enough, and you’ve had all you can take, it is okay to leave. Mention to some key people you are visiting that you may not be able to stay for the entirety of the evening, and not to be offended when you do leave. Even if you have to say something like “I’m so sorry I can’t stay, I promised a friend who was going to be alone today I’d stop by” Your excuse is not meant to offend or manipulate others, just another way to keep yourself safe.
#6. Bring your own drinks
As a newly sober person in recovery, you cannot always expect people to cater to your new parameters, and sometimes bringing your own beverages is the best way to make sure you are taking care of your needs ahead of time. The hosts will probably appreciate that there is an alternative option to alcohol and that you were thoughtful enough to bring it.
#7. Start your own traditions
If it’s too early on in your recovery to even think of participating with people who may present triggers, why not start your own? It does not need to be a big blow out and it can be as low-key as you’d like. Invite your recovery friends to dine with you, or join them at a meeting. Start a new tradition and it may be exactly what you need.
#8 Plan for stressful situations
Rehearse your answers to uncomfortable questions, especially if this is your first holiday gathering sober. Some questions might be innocent inquiries from loved ones who truly care and other questions might seem more like an inquisition. Practice answering questions with your counselor, therapist, friend, or at AA and NA meetings. Don’t be afraid to decline to answer questions, too.
#9. If you need to enter treatment during the holidays, don’t be afraid to.
Many people mistakenly think the holidays are an inappropriate time for treatment, when it’s actually one of the best times. The logic that the holidays are a happy time is not necessarily true and wintertime depressive episodes have become their own mental health issue, now know as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. The holidays cause emotional stress that when the use of alcohol or other drugs are present; it makes it difficult for someone struggling with addiction to avoid use. Treatment starting during the holiday season could be the best gift you could give your family.
If you are not sure on where to start in your steps to recovery this holiday season, contact The Recover for help.
Also published on Medium.