‘Tis the season for celebrating and spreading cheer. But you might feel nervous about the holiday season if you are in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. This time of year can trigger the addiction and make it harder than ever to maintain sobriety.
As your calendar fills with holiday parties and expectations from other people, stress levels can go up. Emotions often arise during the holiday season when you think about memories from the past. Not only are you working through these thoughts and emotions, but you also might be travelling and have a hard time sticking with your sober routines or recovery support systems.
Don’t let yourself become vulnerable to relapse during this holiday season! Right now is the time to prepare so that you can protect the most important gift in your life: living without addiction. These tips will help you maintain sobriety so that you can enjoy the holiday season without slipping back into addictive habits again:
- Plan Ahead: It is inevitable that you will be offered a drink or find yourself in a tempting situation. How will you handle the situation? Have a few lines prepared so that you can easily turn down the drink. This preplanned statement will give you something to say in the moment when you might feel flustered by the situation. You can keep it simple with something like “No thank you, but I would love a Diet Coke with lime please. You don’t owe an explanation, and there is no need to explain your recovery if you don’t want to discuss it with others.
- Be Selective About Social Events: There are many opportunities to spend time with friends and family during this season. It’s probably not realistic to avoid every holiday party. But, you can be selective about the events that you choose to attend. If you know that alcohol will be involved and it will be difficult for you to say no, then you might avoid that party. Or, bring a sober friend who can help you stay on track during the evening.
- Know Your Escape Route: When you are attending a holiday gathering, and the temptation is creeping in, how will you excuse yourself before you give in to the temptation? Have a backup plan so that you can step away from the party so that you can maintain your sobriety. For example, you might drive with a sober friend who is willing to leave any time, instead of being obligated to stay until your drinking friends are done with the party.
- Spend Time with Loved Ones Who Offer the Support You Need: Reach out to the people who will keep you on track in recovery. Do you have friends or family members who encourage your progress? Spend your free time with people who build you up and help you stay out of trouble. On the other hand, it might be time to sever ties with friends who are bad influences or those who have encouraged addictive behaviour in the past. If you are attending meetings, then you should always have a list of at least five people you can call when you need someone to talk to about your sobriety.
- Focus on Your WHY: What is the reason WHY you chose to overcome the addiction? Keeping your reason in the forefront of your mind is a good way to keep you on track when things get hard. Write it down. Keep this reminder in your wallet. When you face temptation, then you can repeat the statement in your mind or even look at the reminder in a private location.
- Make Self Care a Priority: Caring for your mental and physical health is essential to help you avoid common triggers. Even though the holiday season can be a busy time of year, it is important that you make self-care a priority: exercise, eat well and get enough sleep each night. Maintaining good health will keep your defenses high so that you can minimize the risk of falling into addiction again.
Recovery is something to celebrate, and the holiday season is the perfect time of year to enjoy your successes. Use this season to renew your commitment to the positive life changes that have been made over the past year. You worked hard to overcome the issues through addiction and mental health rehab, and you deserve to stay on track in your recovery.