Holiday work events. Family gatherings. Old friends home for winter break. Last-minute shopping sprees. Stressful relationships resurfaced. Feelings of grief and loss. There are many factors that can make a perfectly sober holiday quite difficult. However, sober holidays are not impossible. Despite the relapse triggers that this season often brings, the holidays do not have to mean jeopardizing your recovery. All you need is a carefully considered holiday relapse prevention plan.
Having a thought-out plan before diving into holiday activities is perhaps the best way to avoid relapse. Keep in mind that recovery does not mean you have to miss out on festivities altogether. If you are invited to a party, just be sure to make a plan first, so that you will know exactly what to do if something goes wrong. This will keep you from getting caught off guard. Ask yourself things like:
- Who will be at the party? Is there anyone there who will try to compromise my sobriety? Who can go with me that supports my sobriety?
- What will I say when someone offers me a drink? What will I order to drink while there?
- Where is the party? Is it an environment I can handle at this time? How will I get home in the case I feel uncomfortable and need to leave?
- What are possible relapse triggers? What is my escape plan if I feel a craving or urge come on?
No matter the event or occasion, know that you always have the right to go home if you feel at all uncomfortable, upset, or tempted by the presence of alcohol and drugs. You deserve the happiest of holidays, and should never feel like having fun must mean putting sobriety at stake. By making a plan – a holiday relapse prevention plan – you can stay level-headed and safe. Turnbridge can help with this.
As a young adult drug treatment center, we understand the stresses and pressures that come with the holiday season well – especially for those in and new to recovery. If you are hoping to stay sober during the holidays, rest assured that there are ways to prevent relapse in the frenzy of festivities. Here are six must-do items for your holiday relapse prevention plan:
1. Avoid vulnerable situations.
There are many factors that can make it difficult to stay sober during the holiday season. One of those is the frequently assumed “eat, drink, and be merry” attitude. People are constantly spiking their eggnog, toasting champagne, and making alcohol the focus of social gatherings. Before attending any festivities, it is important to understand that you may enter some non-sober environments. That said, try to avoid any slippery situations where you know you will feel tempted or pressured to drink. If you know that uncle Frank is going to try to mix you a stiff drink, or that friends and family are going to ask a lot of pressing questions, you may consider avoiding that gathering altogether. If your high school using buddies invite you to a reunion party where you know there will be drugs, it’s best to avoid that, as well.
2. Recognize the emotional complexities of the season.
The holidays are a very emotional time for many. You may feel especially stressed to get holiday shopping done, anxious about seeing family and friends again, or even wary of another dysfunctional holiday gathering. If you have lost someone close to you, the holidays may stir feelings of sadness or disappointment. Be aware that these complex emotions can arise and may make you feel especially vulnerable. They are not an excuse, however, to rationalize a drink or two. The disease of addiction does not make exceptions for holidays – it is just as powerful as it was before the holidays began.
If you feel negative emotions stirring, it is important to be forgiving of yourself. Be forgiving of others, as well, and try to keep a positive attitude if someone or something brings you down. Do not channel your emotions into drinking or drug use, but instead, use your addiction recovery toolkit and find other ways to cope: exercise, meditate, go for a walk, read a book, or meet a friend for coffee to talk it out.
3. Have a support system lined up.
There is the chance you will encounter unforeseen relapse triggers during the holiday season. Know what these are and have supportive people you can reach out to should they arise. If you are experiencing a craving, if you are feeling especially vulnerable, do not bottle it up. Reach out to someone who is supportive and willing to listen. Reach out to someone who will tell you to stay strong. As encouraging as your family and friends might be, it is important to also have a sober network on call – people who understand just what you’re going through because they’re in recovery, too.
Your support system may be the people in your 12-Step meetings. If so, make sure you stick to your meeting schedule (or even attend more meetings) during the hectic holiday season. If you want to attend a party where you know there will be drinking, ask a supportive, sober friend from your drug treatment program to come along. Keep in touch with your sponsor, counselors, and other sober connections during this time. Don’t be afraid to talk about your recovery amidst all the celebrations, and never hesitate to reach out to someone for help.
4. Take care of yourself.
Every day, make a point to put yourself (and your healing) first. Do things that you know make you happy. Do things that make you feel healthy and energized. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit. The better you feel physically and spiritually, the stronger you will be emotionally and the more equipped you will be to handle relapse triggers. That is why many people in recovery will continue their routine activities such as yoga, meditation, and working out during the holiday season. Not only are these great ways to manage and channel emotions, they can also help you gain more confidence, hope, and motivation in recovery.
5. Create new traditions with family and friends.
In the past, you may have filled your holidays with drinking and using. This year, tell family and friends that you’d like to make some new (sober) traditions. Go ice skating, make holiday cards or cookies, take a trip to somewhere new, or even volunteer at a soup kitchen or local charity. You may also consider hosting your own sober gathering and gift-exchange, to eliminate your risk of relapse elsewhere.
6. Find the holiday spirit.
This season, try to look beyond the parties, the festivities, the gifts and the gatherings spinning around you. Instead, find the real meaning and joyousness behind the holiday season. Look around you. Discover gratitude in every moment that passes (even the most chaotic ones) and in everyone you are able to share these moments with. Recognize your blessings and write them down in a gratitude journal – something you can look back on and read during difficult times.
This is the season of giving and giving thanks. Gratitude is an essential part of the recovery process, and can truly help move you through the holiday season. Remember that each day can be a new beginning, and that each day brings a new reason to celebrate your sobriety.
Happy holidays from Turnbridge! If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction this holiday season, please do not hesitate to reach out. Call us at 877-581-1793 to learn more about our recovery programs for young men and women battling drug addiction.