Maintaining our sobriety on a daily basis is difficult enough for us when we’re new in recovery, but sometimes our first sober holiday celebrations can tip us over the edge and trigger relapse.
Holidays are already a period of emotional highs and lows for us. We may feel the extremes of loneliness, anxiety, happiness and sadness. We may not be reconciled with our loved ones yet, or we’re newly reconciled and tensions may still be high. We may even be returning to a family of people who are suffering from addictions of their own — people who do not yet understand the importance of our own recovery.
Look upon these holiday celebrations as opportunities to practice the recovery tools we have been taught by your sponsor and friends from 12-step groups. It is up to us to anticipate these situations and react to them rationally, not emotionally as we did in the past. Now that we are clean and sober, we must learn to live life on life’s terms. Staying present in the moment and recognizing the next indicated step in our recovery is the most important thing we can do.
Know your triggers and actively take steps to avoid them.
We know what makes us cringe, the situations that make us uncomfortable, and feelings that make us want to drink or use again. We can be consciously aware of our surroundings and recognize the triggers that are present. In most cases, we can actively take steps to remove ourselves from these situations. In these times, we can use the tools we have to keep us clean and sober. We can look to our network of sober friends and turn to them for support.
Perhaps a feeling or emotion is pulling us back to drinking or using. What is causing that feeling? Is it the experience from a past trauma that is weighing us down? Is it feeling alone during a time when so many are gathering with family and loved ones? Is it anxiety or depression? Share these feelings with a sponsor or trusted support person. Work through the issues and make active attempts to resolve them. We may even talk to a counselor, clergyperson, or spiritual leader if we need greater guidance. Overcoming these feelings not only gives us a greater sense of peace and pride in our recovery, but also helps ensure that we’ll be able to maintain our sobriety for the long haul.
Avoid situations where alcohol and drugs may be present.
The holiday season is the time of year when we are at greatest risk for relapse. On New Year’s Eve, Americans who choose to consume alcohol will consume an average of 4.4 drinks per person. Nearly all holiday parties will involve alcohol or drugs to some degree or another. The best advice? Avoid parties altogether when alcohol and drugs are present.
Avoiding parties with alcohol and drugs may not always be possible, however. If this happens, there are a few tips that will help us maintain our sobriety even in the presence of drugs, alcohol, and other triggers:
Rehearse your responses. Create a script to use to decline off-limits offers.
Bring your own non-alcoholic beverage. We won’t have to turn down someone’s drink offer if we already have one in hand.
Leave a situation when you’re not comfortable. It may be awkward, but that’s far preferable to relapse.
Bring a sober friend for support. We can rely on their support when we feel triggered.
When we leave the party sober, we can take pride in our great achievement of maintaining our recovery. Reward yourself with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, or another safe prize of your choice!
Fill our time (and our minds) with positive activities.
Our minds often run vicious circles of depression, anxieties, fears, what-if scenarios, and other negative thought processes. The issue can be particularly bad when stuck at home, alone with nothing to occupy our time. Keeping ourselves busy and our minds on positive things will help pass the time and prevent negative thoughts and emotions. To overcome these periods of negativity, engage in positive activities such as picking up a hobby, learning a new skill, engaging in positive social activities, or volunteer at a nearby nonprofit organization.
Volunteering is a positive activity that will not only help us feel better about ourselves, but helps others in need as well. We can choose a local charity, shelter, or nonprofit that we’re passionate about. We can make a positive impact on our communities and those around us. And at the end of the day, we can rest easy knowing that we made the world just a little bit better of a place.
Practice good self care.
To ensure that we stay healthy and happy in recovery, we must take care of ourselves! We need constant nourishment and maintenance physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
There is an acronym that helps us identify our basic needs when preventing relapse. HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. When we’re feeling restless, irritable, and discontent, look to HALT as the possible reason, then we make sure those needs are met! Our bodies need good food, lots of sleep, exercise, and medical help when necessary. Our minds need to be stimulated and learn new information. We must process through traumas and emotions to prevent depression and anxiety. Spiritually we need to connect with those around us and the world in which we live. Only when those needs are met can we truly find happiness in our lives.
We take care of the things that are most important to us, right? That might be a loved one, a car, a guitar, or other cherished posession. Yet when it comes to our own lives and bodies, we let everything fall to the wayside. Why is that? If our life is valuable to us, we’ll make every effort necessary to make sure that we can thrive. In a nutshell, that’s what recovery is about.
Recovery is about finding ourselves valuable enough to take care of ourselves the way we’ve taken care of others. Its about making sure our needs are met so that we can continue to meet the needs of others. So take care of yourself, because you’re worth it!
Anyone can make it through a holiday season without relapse.
Holidays can certainly be difficult, especially the first one in recovery. But the good news is that there is help for every problem that we might experience during the holidays. No matter what we’re going through, someone has been through the same thing. And someone out there can help us find the relief we need from the emotional pain.
However, as we navigate the rough waters of the holidays, these tools will help us through this hurdle. As we continue to recover, every new challenge will become easier. Life will begin to feel normal again, and we will settle into a new healthier, happier way of life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction this holiday season, Gateway Recovery Center is here to help. Our admissions office is open 24/7/365 to help our guests begin their new life free from addictions to drugs and alcohol. Don’t wait for a happier life, get started by calling us today.