As holly jolly as the holidays are supposed to be, they sure bring on an overload of stress. And this “happiest time of the year” can actually be torture for someone in recovery. From holiday parties and family obligations to busy travel schedules and crowded shopping trips, the holidays come with a lot of expectations.
For someone recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, these expectations can trigger some seriously stressful emotions. Family time can be stressful enough for anyone, and can be especially demanding on someone in recovery. The stress that family can trigger during the holidays can quickly make someone want to cope by using a substance.
For those without a family, the holidays can be extremely lonely. The holiday blues are very real, especially for those who find themselves alone this time of year. For someone in recovery, feeling lonely is common even when it’s not the holidays. The holidays, however, can trigger even more intense emotions in the recovering addict without family or friends to share them with.
The thought of a drink or two (or more) to cope with the stress of the holidays is normal for anyone, recovering addict or not. The holidays are a time for celebration, but you don’t need to drink or do drugs to do so. It’s the perfect time of year to celebrate sobriety. Give yourself a gift this holiday season and avoid relapse by sticking to the following tips:
6 Tips to Avoid Relapse During the Holidays
- Begin Each Day with a Plan
Start each day out knowing exactly what you’re going to do. While this is a good idea for anyone in recovery, during the holidays it can even be more important. Your main priority is staying sober, and this is what you want to focus of your day to be. Plan each day and stick to that plan as much as possible. Too much extra activity can trigger more stress, which can ultimately trigger relapse.
- Avoid Difficult Situations
While it’s hard to avoid every difficult situation you’ll run into during the holidays, do your best to stay away from those you know will trigger the urge to use. Stay away from those who drink or use drugs and do your best to stay away from conversations that will trigger high stress. If it’s too hard to go to the Christmas or New Year’s party and not have a drink, just don’t go. When in doubt, put yourself above pleasing others.
- Have a Support System
Having a strong support system is fundamental in avoiding relapse. And during the holidays it’s vital. Whether attending recovery meetings before a family function or having someone to call when you’re feeling the holiday blues, having support this time of year is extremely important. Whether from a trusted friend, family member, or professional be sure you’ve got someone you can talk to when holiday stress is on overdrive.
- Understand It’s an Emotional Time of Year
Thinking the holidays are going to be as magical as they were when you were little is unrealistic. The holidays are actually one of the most stressful times of the year and can trigger some heavy emotions in even the most grounded of individuals. Going into the holidays with the understanding that emotions run high during the holidays can make them easier to cope with when they surface.
- Practice Self-Care
Keep stress as far away as possible during the holidays by practicing self-care. Eat healthy and get plenty of exercise. Drink warm liquids such as herbal tea or hot water with lemon. Slow down with some gentle meditation, and allow yourself to reflect on the joy that the season truly does have to offer. When we practice self-care, we become mentally stronger and develop an internal awareness that will help dramatically with holiday stress.
- Focus on Giving to Others
The true spirit of the holidays is found within the joy of giving to others. While it can be difficult to focus on anything but maintaining sobriety during the holiday madness, focusing on giving to others can do wonders to help you avoid relapse. Giving what you can of yourself to others is an excellent way to cultivate more happiness and greater joy. Do what you can to give by doing something that makes you feel good. You might want volunteer at a shelter or pass out blankets to the homeless. Bake cookies and give them to neighbors, help someone you know needs it, or offer to do the cleaning at your family holiday dinner. When we focus on giving to others, we offer ourselves a way to feel the spirit of the season…without the extra stress.
While the holidays can prove to be extra difficult to someone in recovery, they don’t have to be the reason for relapse. Just like the holidays, sobriety is something to celebrate. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come and let this be the focus of your celebration this holiday season.
Stress this time of year is natural, even for those who aren’t struggling to stay off drugs or alcohol. Keep this in mind when you want to have a drink because your family’s driving you nuts. Holiday stress doesn’t have to take you down with it. Keep the above mentioned tips in mind and you’re sure to find your days to be merry and bright.