Surviving the Holidays As An Addict in Recovery

staying sober over the holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most stressful. Relationships, loneliness, depression, and unreasonable expectations from family have a way of unveiling themselves in the months of November and December. Family issues often come to light; negative holiday memories from childhood may reappear, unhealthy relationships or family dynamics may surface along with family secrets or pressures. Surviving the holidays as an addict in recovery can be daunting.

Of course, it’s not just family issues that cause stress over the holidays. Worries about finances, expectations for a “perfect” holiday or making up for past holidays that failed to measure up can also cause stress. Holidays are meant to be joyous, but we often finish the year feeling overwhelmed. It’s enough for anyone to feel defeated instead of rejoiced. For a recovering addict, however, they also have the added worry about being able to remain sober during holiday parties that may include alcohol and/or drugs.

Here are some ways to survive the holidays as an addict in recovery:

Be Prepared

You are already ahead of the game if you are reading this! You hopefully know what to expect based on previous family gatherings – to some extent. If your Aunt Betsy likes to push drinks on others, be prepared for that scenario and have a response ready. Take time to think about what you will be able to resist easily, and what you may not be able to turn down. Set boundaries for yourself and for others. If being around alcohol is going to be too risky, ask that there not be any alcohol this year at family gatherings. Also remember that you don’t have to accept every invitation to every party or gathering. It’s OK to decline an offer if the risk of a slip is too great.

Before the party, sit in a quiet place and spend a few moments anticipating questions from family members before it happens Take time to figure out how you’d like to answer them so you aren’t ‘on the spot.’ Be sure to anticipate questions about your recovery and/or suggestions/offers to have a drink or a smoke with other family members. Be prepared to have to explain addiction to loved ones and how the struggle to remain sober is challenging, but not impossible, especially with support from friends and family.

If you will be alone during the holidays, make plans to participate in activities that will encourage your recovery such as volunteering at a shelter for homeless people or animals.

Realize that trust may need to be earned back by some family still. You may be ready to move on, but some of your family may not be at that point yet. It may take time for things to be back to ‘normal,’ especially if there was a very specific event that took place before your decision to achieve sobriety. Remember how far you have come and where you want to be. Share your story if you feel comfortable

Use the buddy system / sober support – bring another friend in sobriety or someone that you can trust to keep you on the right path.

Take Care…. Of Your Body!

Remember to take care of yourself physically. Eat a balanced diet, get moving/exercising. Relax, meditate or pray to calm your mind. Make sure you are getting enough rest. Remaining sober is often emotionally and physically draining. Add in holidays and you have a recipe for a physical or mental breakdown. Take time to nurture your body, your mind, your soul, and your sobriety.

Take Care…. Of Your Mind!

Take a few moments to think about what stress management techniques work best for you. Whether it’s taking a walk, taking calming deep breaths, or calling a friend, know what works for you to reduce your stress and make a list. It may not be enough to know in your head what works for calming you down. Make a note on your phone or even carry a little notebook with calming strategies written out for reference. Whatever your method of note-keeping, make a physical list to reference, not just one “in your head.” What’s great about a physical list instead of a mental list is that when you face a situation where you are forced to calm yourself down, you don’t have to try and remember what works for you. You can quickly pull out that list and run through the techniques to calm yourself down.

Focus on the positive/count your blessings. You are alive. You are here. You are sober. You CAN do this. Focus on your recovery. Focus on how far you have come. Release resentment toward others, including yourself and your past actions. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help or talk to someone if you are struggling. They’ll be less disappointed if you ask for help rather than relapse. Also realize that while willpower is certainly part of the journey, it’s not something you have to face alone.

If You Need Help Now

Don’t wait until Jan 1 if you know you have a problem now. There is never an inappropriate or inconvenient time to get help. If your concern is that the holidays should be a happy time, remember that realizing that you need help IS a positive development and a positive decision. Looking back next year, would you rather grandma remember you drunk because you decided to wait for help until after the holidays or have her remember that you were in treatment and getting help to be a better version of yourself? The best gift to yourself and to your family is being sober. (getting sober? getting help?) While many others may be facing their start to sobriety on January 1st, how awesome would it be to already have 2 days, or 5 days, or 2 weeks, or even 4 weeks of sobriety under your belt on January 1?

If you or a loved one need help, call Ocean Hills Recovery today at 949-547-1064.

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