The holidays can be tough to navigate during early recovery – whether due to extra stress, unrealistic expectations, booze-laden parties, shopping frenzies, loneliness and/or ramped-up family time. The good news: With a little extra support, extra self-care and extra reminders of how far you’ve come in your recovery, you can have a happy and sober holiday season.
Here are a few important tips to keep in mind this holiday:
- Stick to a healthy routine. The best way to manage holiday stress and prevent relapse is to take extra care of yourself. This means getting proper sleep, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and making relaxation strategies a priority.
- Mind your emotions. For many of us in recovery, the holiday season can feel not-so-merry and bright. In fact, the holiday blues is a very real phenomenon. Pay attention to (or even journal) your thoughts, feelings, expectations and interactions this time of year – and if you feel too overwhelmed, seek professional help.
- Choose events wisely. Remind yourself that it’s okay to decline an invitation, especially if it could possibly put your sobriety at risk. Along the same lines, make time for some quiet time to ensure that the stress of the season doesn’t interfere with your recovery.
- Recruit a party partner. If you do decide to attend a holiday party, ask a friend or loved one who supports your sobriety to stick by your side. Be sure it’s someone who is willing to take action or have a tough conversation with you if needed. It’s also smart to take along a safe food or drink that you enjoy. For instance, some flavored or sparkling water.
- Rehearse a script for saying “no.” Knowing what you’ll say when offered a drink, smoke or even something stronger will help ease the pressure. It’s your choice how much you want to divulge about your recovery, but you could always say that you’re not drinking or smoking for health reasons.
- Identify your triggers. Write down your individual triggers and some strategies to manage them. Many people in recovery use the handy acronym H.A.L.T. as a reminder to take a moment to ask: Are you’re feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? SMART Recovery also has many useful tools to deal with cravings and triggers anytime. Check out their website at http://www.smartrecovery.org for many useful tools.
- Develop an exit strategy. Prior to attending a holiday party or family affair, make sure you have a plan in place to exit gracefully should you start to feel overwhelmed or tempted. You may even want to inform the host ahead of time that you may have to leave early. It’s ok to make an appearance at the holiday festivities but then make a timely exit before things become too “festive.”
- Seek support. Whether you’re part of a traditional 12-step or non-12-step group, attending extra meetings is a smart strategy during this time of year. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s also wise to reach out to an addiction specialist, counselor, peer or loved one who can be “on call” if you need a little extra support. There are also online 12-step and SMART Recovery meetings that can be very helpful during difficult times. The website https://www.intherooms.com can be a valuable resource for online support.
- Take time to be grateful. While it’s easy to get swept away in the hustle of the holidays, it’s important to try to slow yourself down so you can count your blessings and think about how far you’ve come in your recovery. Remember that nothing that is worth doing is easy. Be grateful for how far you have come and remember that recovery gets easier the longer you’re at it. Getting through the holidays sober can really build confidence and help you develop more gratitude for the changes you have made in recovery.
Wishing you a safe, sober, happy and healthy holiday season!
Rehab for the Holidays: The Gift That Keeps On Giving
If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder please call 305-595-7378 to speak to an admissions specialist and begin your journey toward lasting recovery! We are available to help you or a loved one start a process of treatment and recovery or help support you even if you have already established a recovery program on your own.