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Whether you have a number of years in recovery or are newly sober from a drug or alcohol addiction, the holidays can be a difficult time. For many, it is a time of family gatherings, over-commitment, financial strain, and unrealistic expectations. Some may have holiday parties, hectic travel schedules, or spend the holidays away from their support system. And others may not have anyone to spend the holidays with and feel depressed, angry, and lonely.
Safeguarding Your Sobriety
These are only some of the things at this time of year that can cause stress, anxiety, frayed emotions, or possibly trigger a relapse. Even though this is a challenging time of year, there are things you can do to safeguard your sobriety while you enjoy the holiday season.
1. Plan Ahead
Making a plan is a great way to boost your confidence in your ability to not drink or use drugs. If you worry that an activity or event could trigger a relapse, here are some tips to help you through.
- Attend a meeting before the event or activity. Or, “bookend” your activity by calling your sponsor or someone in recovery before and after attending.
- Bring your sponsor or a sober friend with you.
- Have someone on call in case you feel the urge to use or drink.
- Make sure you have the ability to leave at any time if you feel uncomfortable.
- Know that it is alright to limit your time if you are around stressful people or in a stressful situation where you do not feel comfortable. Remember: it is acceptable to turn down an invitation.
- Always be aware of the people, things, or places that could make you feel uncomfortable or trigger a relapse.
2. Stay Aware of What You Are Thinking and Drinking
When you are at social gatherings, keep a drink in your hand. This will keep others from constantly offering you a drink. If you order a drink, always be mindful of how it is being made. Someone who gives you a beverage might not be aware that you are in recovery, or they may forget what you asked for and bring you an alcoholic drink by mistake. If you accidentally take a sip of a drink with alcohol, try not to worry. It is a mistake–not a relapse.
Be aware of your thoughts during these times. Don’t let your mind trick you into thinking that your period of sobriety taught you to control your drinking or that you can handle drinking in social settings. Talk your sponsor or a member of your support network if you sense that your thoughts might lead you astray.
3. Volunteer Your Time
Share your gratitude by helping others. Look for places to volunteer and be of service. If you can, volunteer throughout the year. The opportunities for being of service are numerous, but here are a few ideas.
- Help serve a meal at an outreach or a homeless shelter.
- If you have a neighbor who is elderly, confined, or lonely, spend time with them.
- Volunteer to help with holiday activities at nursing homes or homes for the elderly.
- Visit the children’s area of a hospital and volunteer to read stories.
- Reach out with hospitality and warmth to someone who is new at a meeting.
4. Plan Your Own Holiday Celebrations
If you are not spending time with family, plan your own holiday celebrations. Invite sober friends to a holiday dinner or party. Decorate a tree together while having mocktails and snacks. Host a holiday movie marathon of all the classic holiday films such as Home Alone, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, or Miracle on 34th Street. Go bowling, or depending on where you live, play a game of baseball or go swimming. It is your holiday celebration, so plan whatever fun activities you and your friends enjoy.
5. Be Kind to Yourself
Enjoy your sober life by being kind to yourself. Take time to relax and enjoy the holiday season. Eat healthy foods you enjoy, exercise gently, and get plenty of sleep. You will not only feel better physically, but you will also feel stronger emotionally.
- Use some time to connect with the people you love.
- Visit a quiet place you enjoy, such as a park, lake, or place of worship.
- Find some quiet time each day, even if it is only a few minutes, for personal reflection or meditation.
If You Need Drug or Alcohol Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, the holidays may be the best time to get help. For many people with a substance use disorder, their use gets worse over the holidays. Seeking help during this time of year could be the best gift you could give to yourself, your family, and your friends. Call and speak to a professional at Canyon Vista Recovery Center in Mesa, Arizona. They will answer your questions and explain how you can begin your journey on the path to a healthy and sober life.