A Guide to Christmas in Recovery
Christmas can be a challenging time for recovering addicts, especially if you are in the early days of your recovery journey.
The silly season seems to give most people an open license to party, moderation is put on hold for most of December, and social gatherings tend to be centred around indulgence.
So, if you’re feeling daunted, don’t worry. Any trepidation you might feel is completely reasonable – and, strangely, it’s quite helpful. Being aware of a trying period ahead means you can plan and put coping strategies in place; which leaves you free to have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Centre Yourself in Routine
Holidays are by definition unstructured, which can be problematic when you’re in recovery. While there is no harm in enjoying some holiday freedom, it’s important to keep up with rituals, routines and activities that make you feel grounded and centred. Exercise, meditation, support groups – whatever your safe zone entails, make sure you include it in your everyday life as Christmas rages around you. Slipping back into unhealthy habits is much less likely if you maintain your basic recovery structures.
Give Yourself Permission to Stay Home
Christmas functions – with colleagues, extended family, and friends – can be overwhelming. If you feel like an event is going to compromise your recovery or make you feel overly anxious, it’s perfectly acceptable to decline an invitation. If you’re comfortable doing so, there is no harm in being upfront about your reasons; but citing a conflicting event as a white lie is absolutely fine. Being selective about Christmas get-togethers can make maintaining your recovery much easier, so don’t feel obliged to go to everything.
Make Traditions of Your Own
There may be some Christmas traditions in your family and/or social circle that simply won’t work for a recovering addict. Not being able to fully participate can be upsetting; however, nothing is stopping you from creating new traditions. Invite someone – or a whole gang – close to you for a Christmas Eve walk. Take the kids for a drive to discover the most outlandish Christmas decorations in your neighbourhood. Bake ninja-bread men. Establishing new Christmas traditions can renew your sense of joy in the holidays – and it will be a lot of fun for those you choose to include.
Plan Your Escape Routes
When you’re in recovery even something as simple as a family barbeque can feel complicated. There may be some people you haven’t seen since you were in active addiction. There may be some people you fear might pressure you into having a celebratory drink. Still, you may want to go…because it might also be very nice. The easiest strategy to cope with situations like this is to make a good ol’ fashioned escape plan. Ask a friend to call you at an agreed time (or just set an alarm on your phone) and feign an unexpected emergency if you need to make an exit. Alternatively, get a trusted friend and/or family member, who will be at the event with you, to provide a buffer zone if you need it. A raised eyebrow can be all it takes to signal for help.
It’s not unusual for your regular support system – mentors, friends from group, your recovery buddies – to disperse over the holiday period. After all, most people will have social commitments. However, it can be invaluable to stay in touch over the phone, check in regularly and plan for a get-together after the Christmas rush. Even a ten-minute conversation with someone going through the same challenges can provide enormous relief and see you through to the end of the yuletide.
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