It can be difficult to navigate the holidays for an addict. It is a time to eat, drink, and be merry. Holidays are a time to be spent with family and loved ones. The holidays can be stressful for everyone. You don’t need alcohol or drugs to be festive this season. Here are some tips to help prevent a relapse.
- Have a plan. Especially if you are new in recovery and going to a holiday party. If you know there may be alcohol there drive yourself so you can leave when you are ready.
- Know your triggers. For common triggers there is an acronym- HALT. When you feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired- stop and think for a moment. Recognize that every moment passes. Take care of yourself mentally and physically.
- Try not to stress yourself. The holidays are stressful for everyone. Don’t overwhelm yourself with ‘what ifs’. This time of year is about being around loved ones. For some, family can be a trigger. Contact others in recovery. They are your family now, too.
- Distract yourself. Bring a friend who doesn’t drink or use drugs. Offer to help the host so you can stay busy with little tasks.
- Use your support system. In recovery, a support system is very important. This holiday season if you need them- lean on them. Sometimes, in the process of helping someone else it may end up helping you, too.
- Have sober strategies in place. Some people do not understand recovery. You may be offered alcohol by a host without them knowing or having the understanding that they shouldn’t. To help avoid that situation carry around a soda or water. Be prepared to lean on your support system. If you need to take a breath and call your sponsor- do it. Feel empowered to limit your time in stressful situations or around difficult people—and always have an escape plan. A lot of preventing a relapse is having an awareness of the people, places or things that could trigger you and then dealing with those emotions in a positive way. Don’t give up on yourself.
The holiday season is upon us. These can be happy times and these can be triggering times. This holiday season can be different. Avoid those unrealistic expectations, over-commitment, unhealthy eating, and financial strain. These can lead to overwhelming stress. Overwhelming stress can lead to a relapse. Talk with your sponsor or someone that understands recovery about the emotions and expectations that you have wrapped up in the holidays. This is called ‘calculating reality’. Don’t forget that everyone feels stressed out during the holidays. Realizing this will help you lower your expectations (of yourself and others) and adjust your attitude. Sometimes, you are going to have to check yourself. Take it moment by moment. Don’t expect the worst. Show up at your holiday event feeling accepting and positive.
Not everyone understands addiction and recovery. Be prepared to be asked some uncomfortable questions. Rehearse some responses to questions you may not want to answer and direct the conversation away from that topic. Some people that have no experience with addiction and recovery may not know the question they are asking is an inappropriate or an uncomfortable one. If you do feel like sharing, share your positive experiences in recovery rather than your bad experiences or ‘war stories’ while using.
Being in recovery, you learn how to deal with hurtful emotions in a positive way. You create a group of people that you can lean on for support. You are getting to know yourself. Recovery is a big change in behavior, thoughts, and actions. This is the time of year where you practice what you have learned. The moment you begin to feel uncomfortable or irritated or annoyed- recognize it. Take a deep breath. Walk away. Call someone for support.
You can have a wonderful holiday. Enjoy the little things this year. Don’t get overwhelmed by getting gifts or your creepy- alcoholic uncle. This year- make it about you. The best gift you could give anyone (and yourself) this season- is a present, healthy, and happy you.
If you do feel like you need help this season call 800-723-7376. There will be someone there for you. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. Everyone deserves to be happy.