The holidays are well-known in the recovery community as a challenging time of year for maintaining sobriety. Between the stresses of being busy and social, and the prevalence of mind-altering substances at big holiday gatherings, the temptation to turn to drugs or alcohol to is usually higher than it is at less hectic times of the year. But with our helpful holiday guide, you and your family can get through the next few weeks with ease — you don’t need to give up the joy and cheer of the holiday season just because you’ve chosen to stay sober. Use these tips to stay confident, on track and healthy so you can enjoy yourself without feeling drawn to drugs or alcohol.
One of the biggest pitfalls over the holidays is overextending. It can feel like there are endless invitations and opportunities to see people and engage in seasonal activities. It can also be difficult to turn down invitations, since it can feel rude or impolite to say no to someone you don’t get to see very often. But if you put too many things on your calendar, you’ll quickly tire yourself out, and the mental exhaustion and stress that results can be a big trigger for many people in recovery.
Keep careful track of your holiday events and make sure they don’t pile up too quickly — that way you’ll have plenty of time to rest and recharge between big social gatherings. You may also want to come up with a polite response or excuse if you find that anyone pushes back when you tell them you won’t be able to make their event. For the most part, though, you’ll likely find that people accept your declined invitation with kindness — everyone understands that the holidays are busy!
On a similar note, it’s important to take advantage of your downtime. When you have protected free time, make sure you’re spending it doing activities that make you feel good — relax with a book, take a run, meditate or go to a support group meeting. Engaging in activities that are just for you will ensure that you don’t feel overwhelmed, and will serve as a reminder that your first obligation is to yourself and your sobriety. It can also be helpful to make a list of your favorite self-care practices, so you don’t find yourself feeling bored or like you need to fill your time with other responsibilities. For example, if you get home from work and you have a couple of hours before you’re scheduled to wrap presents with your niece, you can look at your list and pick something to help you recharge instead of letting the hectic day make you feel stressed and worried.
Shift Your Focus to Others
If you’re in recovery, it’s all too easy to enter the holiday season feeling anxious about how others are going to view you. Many people who struggle with addiction find it difficult to let go of the sense that others are judging them for their past. But if you give in to this mindset through the holidays, you’ll only get stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts, and you won’t be able to enjoy yourself. Instead of focusing on yourself, it can be helpful to look outward — at others who also struggle with the holidays, but for different reasons.
Volunteering, donating or supporting others at this time of year is not only a great way to celebrate the season, but can also be a comforting reminder that your internal worries aren’t as big as they may sometimes seem. Look into local soup kitchens, food banks, gift drives or spiritual communities that may be seeking help around the holidays for people who are less fortunate.
Keep Your Friends Close
Your sober support network is essential to your long-term recovery. This network consists of the people in your life who truly understand where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going, and who are there to build you up and provide encouragement in times of potential stress like the holidays. Perhaps these are your sober friends from your recovery treatment or your sponsor from your 12 Step meetings. It’s important to keep these people near you, so you have somewhere to turn if you’re experiencing cravings or temptations.
We’re fortunate to live in a technological age where it’s easy to stay connected even if we aren’t physically close to one another. If you’re traveling this year, make sure you have a way to reach the people who are most important to you. Look for a support group meeting near where you’ll be staying, or find a recovery podcast or blog to follow.
Don’t Sacrifice Your Routine
Most recovery programs these days stress the importance of sticking to a healthy routine. Fitness, nutrition and sleep habits are essential to maintaining your mental and physical well-being, which in turn influence your confidence, energy levels, capacity for social interaction and motivation to stay sober. It’s crucial to keep all of these things in top shape as you find yourself dealing with the demands of the holiday season. It can be challenging to maintain a health and fitness routine through the holidays — sweet treats and lazy days abound — and we aren’t saying that you can’t even have a single slice of your grandmother’s famous apple pie. But you should be aware of how you’re treating your body, and you should always consider the effect that extra cookies or another hour on the couch will make you feel later on.
Ask For Help if You Need It
Treatment for addiction or relapse is always available and comes in many different forms. If you find yourself struggling to stay sober at this time of year, don’t be afraid to reach out and get professional assistance. Outpatient treatment can be a great way to get real support while allowing you to keep up with the life you’ve been working hard to build, and residential treatment is always available if you think you need it. Riverside Recovery in Tampa, Florida, provides both residential and outpatient treatment for men and women who are living with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. We want you to have a happy and healthy holiday season, and we are always here to connect you with the resources you need to make this possible. Contact us at 800-871-5440 to learn more.