They’re the best of times and the worst of times. Paradoxically, the holiday season can be as challenging as it is joyful — and for some, it’s just plain painful. That’s especially true for individuals in early recovery.
Stress, family, and money issues can all be triggers for drug or alcohol use, and they seem to permeate the final weeks of the year. For many alcoholics, drinking during the holidays may have felt like the only way to get through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve without breaking down. (Of course, as the saying goes, “There’s no situation so bad that drinking won’t make it worse.”) In addition, those weeks before turning the calendar page into a new year are filled with parties and gatherings that often involve the temptation of alcohol or drugs.
However, it is absolutely possible to get through the holiday season clean and sober — and to have a happy holiday while doing it. If you are struggling with your sobriety during the holidays, here are 5 tips that might just help you.
1. Go to more recovery meetings.
If you are struggling, try going to a recovery meeting every day during the holidays — and share about how you are doing. Be as open as possible, and ask other members of your group how they are doing. Being supportive of other people at the meetings you attend will make you feel better.
2. Focus on your spirituality.
If you are open to it, try praying first thing in the morning. Or, try making time for meditation throughout your day. Even just five minutes sitting quietly will give you a much-needed break from the holiday bustle. Then, at the end of your night, try writing a gratitude list. Even if you can only think of one thing, you might just sleep a little bit better that night.
3. Know what triggers you and be selfish in setting boundaries.
If you have a difficult time being around certain people in your life — such as a family member, coworker, or friend that likes to drink — be aware of this and set healthy boundaries. That might mean spending a day at your mom’s house instead of a week. Or, try staying at a hotel instead of with family. Get your own rental car, so you can leave if you find yourself in a challenging situation. Your sobriety has to come first, and it’s likely your family will be proud to see you doing what you need to do to stay clean and sober.
4. Bring recovery materials when you travel.
If you have agreed to travel over the holidays in order to spend time with family and friends, it could be a good idea to bring recovery-based reading or audio materials with you. There is so much great recovery literature and “quit lit” to dig into by the fire: from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, to This Naked Mind and more. Try listening to speaker meetings during your long holiday travels.
5. Let go of your expectations.
Think your holidays will be like a picture print from Currier & Ives? Think again. We are all human, and we are all imperfect. Keep your expectations low, so you won’t be disappointed if something goes wrong; and, you’ll be happily surprised when they go right. Don’t forget to go easy on yourself as well. You don’t have to be perfect on any day of the year, especially during the holidays. As long as you stay clean and sober, everything else will work itself out. If you decide to attend any kind of social event during the holidays, try letting go of any expectations, and remember that you can leave at any time.
In short, the holidays can be a very lonely and scary time, but they can also be beautiful — especially if you spend them clean and sober. If you need help staying clean during the holidays, or if you fall off track, we’re here to listen 24/7. Simply give us a call.