The Holiday Season is one of the toughest times of the year for those coping with addiction.
Preventing a Relapse During the Holiday Season: Protect your sobriety and plan ahead
The holiday season can be an uplifting and great time with family and friends, but for those in recovery from drug or alcohol addictions, it can also be a recipe for disaster. Unrealistic expectations, over-commitment, and fatigue can lead to heightened emotions and affect mood. Stress increases with travel and a hectic schedule. Being away from your support group can induce negative feelings and isolation. Many holiday festivities involve alcohol which may trigger you. But ehe holidays do not need to be such a high risk time. Safeguarding your sobriety which is ultimately the greatest gift you ever gave yourself and those you love, must always come first. Remember, those in Addiction recovery during the holidays face many obstacles, but all of them can be overcome with proper planning.
- Plan your support system ahead of time.
Prepare a plan ahead of time to support and protect your sobriety during key holiday events. If Traveling, research meetings in the local area you will be visiting before you leave. Going to a Twelve Step meeting before or after the event will help keep you grounded. Attending the occasion with your sponsor or a friend in recovery will help keep you accountable. Limit time in stressful situations or around difficult people and always have an escape plan. Relapse prevention is about planning . . . recovery planning.
- Understand the emotional complexity of “the holidays.”
Talk with your sponsor, a friend, or a professional counselor about the emotions and expectations you have wrapped up in the holidays. The Holidays are no longer care free like they were when you were younger, everybody will be tired and stressed, possibly depressed, as past holiday disappointments may hang in the air. Know this. Awareness will help you lower expectations and be forgiving of yourself and others. Instead of entering a holiday event on the defensive, prepare and adjust your thinking to be on the offensive: What is the next right thing for me to do in this situation?
It’s also important to be aware that many people are most vulnerable both during and after the holidays. The stress and resentments that may come up over the holidays can lead to rationalization—we can convince ourselves we’re entitled to drink or use—and sometimes as addicts we do better through the crisis than after it. Remember, the disease of addiction is as powerful the day after a holiday as it is the day before.
- Focus on others rather than yourself.
The holidays are a perfect time to practice gratitude and focus on others rather than yourself. This can take tremendous courage, but that’s okay. You are in recovery and have already demonstrated the capacity for tremendous courage and change. Look for ways to think about and help others. Volunteer, serve a meal at a homeless shelter. Reach out to a newcomer. Spend time with a neighbor or someone in the program who is unabl to spend time with their family.
- Be aware of what you are drinking. Steer clear of rationalizations!
At social gatherings, it’s generally helpful to have something to drink in your hand so people aren’t constantly offering you a drink. Get your own beverage, watch how it is being made, and keep track of it. If you ask someone to get a beverage for you, he or she may forget or not know your situation and bring you an alcoholic drink. If you accidentally pick up the wrong drink and swallow some alcohol, this doesn’t mean you will relapse but watch out for rationalizations, which could creep in: Hmm. I guess I can handle this after all. Perhaps my period of abstinence taught me how to control my drinking. No! Take a walk outside and make a phon call immediately to a someone in your support group. A mistake is not a relapse—but it can most certain;y lead to one if kept a secret.
- Avoid vulnerable situations.
If you know a certain person may criticize you, avoid them. If Uncle Teddy will try to mix you a stiff drink, stay away from him. If you know the office New Year’s party is all about alcohol and other drugs, don’t attend. It is extremely unrealistic to say, “I can power through this.” The lesson of Step One of the Twelve Steps is: You don’t have the power. Alone we use. If you have to attend these events, use the helpful tactics covered here. Ask for help and guidance.
- Self-care comes first.
Take time for yourself during the holiday season. Exercise and proper nutrition goes a long way. The better you feel physically, the stronger you will be emotionally. Be sure to maintain your spirituality. reflection and connection with those you love, is a big part of the holiday season. It is critical to put time aside each day for yourself for relaxation and meditation. No matter how busy you may be this must be a priority.
- If you need addiction treatment, consider getting it during the holidays.
Many families mistakenly think the holidays are an inappropriate time to seek treatment, when in fact it is the best time. “Logic” tells us that tho holidays are a happy time when everyone should be together, even if in reality this is not the case. Addiction will typically ramp up over the holidays. The holidays could be a very emotional and stressful time especially when the use of alcohol or other drugs is prevalent, making it difficult for someone with addiction to avoid use. Surrendering to your addiction and seeking treatment during the holiday is the absolute greatest gift you could give your family.
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