Maintaining Your Recovery During the Holiday Season
Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time. A time to get together with friends and family, let bygones be bygones, share the love…all the good stuff.
Unfortunately, when you are recovering from alcohol and/or drug addiction the holiday season can be trying to say the least. In fact, the whitest thing about Christmas may well be your knuckles as you are desperately trying to maintain your recovery.
First and foremost: Don’t panic! Struggling during the silly season is a standard experience for recovering addicts and you are not alone.
Secondly, let’s take a look at what makes the holidays so hard; knowledge is power after all and the better we understand holiday triggers, the better we can work around them.
Trigger #1 – Christmas Parties
As soon as December rolls around, it is open party season. Work functions, family get-togethers, backyard barbeques…the list is endless. It’s important to remember that any invitation to a Christmas shindig comes from a good place, but it’s equally important to maintain healthy boundaries to keep your recovery going.
The best way to deal with this overload of opportunities to relapse is to give yourself permission to decline. You are allowed to be selective and you are allowed to put yourself first. If you decide to skip Christmas drinks with co-workers you can choose to be open about your recovery, but you can also make an elegant excuse (i.e. conflicting family event, a date, a sick child…anything goes).
Trigger #2 – Broken Routine
During the Christmas period, routine is usually the first thing to go. Whether you are working extra hours to cope with the holiday rush or have a couple of weeks without work due to holiday closures, things will not run as normal and that is always a challenge for a recovering addict; especially if it means you will be alone for long stretches of the holidays.
It might be helpful to make plans to replace some of the lost structure. Whether you schedule some form of daily exercise, make some extra coffee dates or just stock up on good books or binge-worthy series to keep you occupied, the most important thing is to provide yourself with anchors to avoid reverting to unhealthy coping strategies.
Trigger #3 – Family Get-Togethers
Families are great, but they are also a massive source of stress and anxiety – especially during the holiday season. You may be faced with meeting relatives for the first time since you started your recovery, you may be dreading explaining your journey and dealing with any judgement that might come your way…and on top of that, these people expect presents!
If the thought of the family festivities is sending you into a spiral, confide in your most trusted family member and make them your Christmas buddy. Having one person in the room who knows what you’re going through and has your back can make all the difference.
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