Dear Rae: I am 92 days drug and alcohol free. How do I manage my recovery during the upcoming holiday season? There are so many temptations! Emily
First, congratulations on 92 days. I am glad you’ve written to me and that you have a healthy respect for the challenges the holidays bring for someone who is new to recovery.
The season is meant to be a time for joy and merriment …
But there is no question this time of year brings additional temptations. It seems like the holidays put demands on everyone to be present and “festive”. Drinking is at a maximum at work events, family dinners and neighborhood parties. Traveling adds additional stress. And the need to host the “perfect” party or find the “ideal” gift for loved ones takes precedence over self-care.
There are cocktail parties (even the name is triggering) and drink-heavy gatherings can bring about strong urges. BUT, you don’t need those old substances to have a festive time. There are some proactive steps you can take to reduce your stress and keep moving forward in your recovery.
Bump Up your Support System
During the holidays, reach out to your sponsor, therapist, and support groups more frequently. And spend time with others in recovery. Your support system can help you recognize your personal limits. Talk with sober pals before you go to that holiday party and plan to meet with them afterwards.
Have an Advance-Plan
If you are going to a party where there will be alcohol or other substances, evaluate the situation. Have a plan in advance or consider not going this year. If you decide to attend, bring a sober friend with you. Drive yourself so you can make a quick exit, and won’t have to wait for a ride. Also, you can arrive early and leave early to avoid prolonged exposure. Or, you can set a timeframe beforehand and clearly state your intentions when you arrive. The holidays are the time to establish healthy boundaries.
Prepare Responses this Holiday and Rehearse Them
If you’re not ready to share your recovery with family and friends, have a strategy for turning down drinks or other substances, as this is when vulnerability is at its peak.
Know your Triggers and how to Manage Them
Take care of your mental and physical health. Be sure to set aside quiet time each day. Fit relaxation and meditation into your day, even a few minutes, no matter how busy you are. Get enough sleep every night too. Eat nutritious meals or a snack every few hours to keep your blood sugar up. Low blood sugar can make you feel anxious or irritable – increasing the risk of impulsive behavior. As a person who is new to recovery, stay in low risk situations and avoid ones that are high risk. When you are further along in recovery, know your plan for situations that put you in medium or high risk.
Celebrate the season in a new way. Create new rituals or symbols that help redefine joy for you in your recovery during the holidays. You can host your own holiday party for recovery friends or your support group. This is a festive time of year to embrace the joy of a restored life, nourish your spirit, and offer the gift of service to others. You have already given yourself and your loved ones something to celebrate — your best self.
Rae Green, JD, LPC, CAADC
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