The Holidays are filled with temptations for the person struggling with an addictive disorder. There are work and social events, “get together’s” with family and friends, and celebrations of all kinds. For the person who is in recovery, the holiday period can provide additional stress and triggers which can cause relapse. Here are a few helpful ideas to assist you in enjoying the many positive aspects of the season as well as your sobriety.
Know what “triggers” your substance use. Avoid situations in which your triggers will be present. That may mean staying away from people, places and activities that are associated with your past substance use.
Take a buddy with you. Is there a situation where temptation resides that you simply cannot avoid? Perhaps there is that annual employee Christmas party that you are required to attend. Maybe Christmas Eve, or even Christmas morning, are drenched with uncle Jack’s “special” eggnog. Taking an accountability partner with you could be the difference between success and failure in those unavoidable situations.
Make an itinerary for the holidays. Yes, it may seem foolish, but having a daily game plan during the holidays will prevent others from making one for you. Be purposeful and exact, paying particular attention to plan events during times that you know temptation will be present. Don’t be driven with the winds of spontaneity but hoist your sail, set your rudder and determine your own course during the holidays.
Attend meetings and social events which you know will support your sobriety. Take in a few extra meetings to enjoy the support and camaraderie of your sober friends. Stay closely connected to your recovery group during the season.
If you are attending a social event which may provide triggers, such as a work or social party, consider strategies such as:
- Staying away from the bar area, making sure that you have a non-alcoholic beverage in your hand at all times
- Avoid those people who say “come on, just one for the season”
- Leaving early and avoiding the extended after-party activities can get you away from situations leading to substance use.
- -Or – consider not going at all if you think the party will lead to substance use.
In the midst of preventative planning, have fun! Jubilation, thanksgiving, and family are at the heart of the season. Occupation through entertainment can help immensely. Don’t be tricked into thinking that you can’t have any fun during the holidays without alcohol. Get into the spirit of the holidays; merry making is in the air!
Slow down the social scene. Often the urge to drink comes in the form of peer pressure. Who says that you must go out every night? Why not stay at home with the family? Enjoy the old Christmas time movies on TV or as DVD’s. Build a fire in your fireplace and make popcorn. Bake cookies. Take a brisk winter walk to look at the neighborhood lights!
Stay clear of HALT: Hunger, anger, loneliness, tiredness. Adding to the complexity of the equation to stay sober during the holidays is seasonal depression. People are particularly susceptible to feeling alone during the holidays, due to isolation from family or involvement with work, which can led to drinking. Additionally, carrying some candy with you may help to both occupy your mouth and replace the sugary aftertaste that some feel alcohol affords them.
Avoid “down time.” If you run out of ideas for activities while planning your holiday itinerary there are many non-profits which would love to help you conjure some up. Look into volunteering and opportunities to help other people. After all, giving is what the season is all about.
Lastly, carry your cell phone with you. If you are not at a AA meeting or with an encouraging someone during a moment of temptation, it is nice to have an accountability partner on speed dial. Talking to an encouraging friend is almost always more effective than arguing with your temptation. Making that call when temptation presents itself will help you get alcohol off of your mind.
Holiday times are stressful for everyone. Take the opportunity to plan ahead and avoid the temptations that could cause your relapse. You can have a great time over the Holiday Season remaining sober. Be responsible for yourself!