Maintain Your Sobriety Throughout the Holidays

While our holiday gatherings may look a little different this year, celebrations with family and friends can always be risky situations for those in recovery. While it’s always best to surround yourself with people who support your sobriety, sometimes we can’t avoid the people and activities which once encouraged or triggered our substance use. To maintain sobriety throughout the holiday season, it is essential to have a plan of action. Your plan should realistically and honestly consider any potential pitfalls. Once you’ve identified your “danger zones,” you can make smart decisions, in advance, for how to weather those challenges.

Irene Martin and Christian Gabrano are two of our addiction counselors here at Parkdale Center. Both Irene and Christian are in recovery themselves and have some tips to share for how to enjoy the holidays without relapse.

Gratitude and Your Higher Power

Irene has more than 18 years of sobriety under her belt, so she has plenty of experience creating a routine that allows her to enjoy the holidays without substances. She relies on the tools she’s learned from 12 Step programs to set herself up for a happy and successful holiday season.

"I start my day with 30 minutes of meditation, my prayers, and some good, positive daily readings. My prayers include asking my Higher Power for help to keep me sober and abstinent. Throughout the holiday season, I bear in mind that I am grateful for the family, friends, and health that I still have in my life. They are the reason I celebrate whatever holiday it is. It's no longer about the booze or the food.

I have several options for getting to a Gratitude meeting to start or end my day on the holiday. Most are on Zoom these days. If I am sober and abstinent at the end of that day, I'm back in my knees thanking my Higher Power for keeping me sober and abstinent another day. I'll read more positive meditation books and examine my day. If I harmed anyone, I make arrangements as soon as possible to make amends. I do my best to keep my side of the street clean so I'm not resentful or angry—emotions which alcoholics cannot afford.

The best part about my sober routine? I'm not focused on numbing my feelings by drinking or drugging. I'm also eating 3 weighed and measured meals, so I no longer numb myself with the sugar or flour that activate the same pleasure zones in my brain [as alcohol did].

Today I can honestly say I experience my life as my HP intended. I’m not perfect. I just do my part to be the best I can in what I do."

Make a Plan

Christian has been sober for 7 years. Here are some tips he offers for navigating the holidays:

"1. Preschedule your holiday plans. Getting ahead of the game allows for you to prepare for potential stressors. Unplanned events can throw in factors you are not prepared for and can cause irrational reactions.

2. If you’re traveling, make sure to have an exit plan. For example, if you plan to attend a family member’s house for a holiday gathering and there is going to be alcohol, make sure to drive yourself. You don't want to find yourself without a way to leave if you become uncomfortable. If you go with someone, lay out a plan with them beforehand. That way, if you become tempted to drink or develop high anxiety, you can inform the person you are with that you need to leave. That should cue a ‘no questions asked’ understanding that you need to leave immediately.

3. If attending a holiday gathering with family or friends and they are aware of your struggles with alcohol [or drugs] and are supportive, or if you are still early in recovery and possibly still tempted to drink or use substances, ask your family if they would mind holding a sober holiday gathering. While you can't expect others to change their lifestyle because of your circumstances, if they are supportive it doesn't hurt to ask, especially if you are still developing a foundation of recovery.

4. Bring your own beverages to holiday functions. Toasts often happen during the holidays, so bring sparkling grape juice with you. Also, be sure to pour your own drinks so you do not mistakenly drink an alcoholic beverage. Sometimes people don't know you have a problem, or they may know but don't think you are serious about it, and they may give you an alcoholic beverage by mistake.

5. If the temptation to drink or use substances is still too high for you, develop relationships within the recovery community. Celebrate the holidays with people in recovery. Most NA or AA groups have holiday functions via Zoom this year.

6. Boost your recovery support group meeting attendance or plan to attend a meeting on holidays. Most still have meetings on Christmas Eve and Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Most meetings are using Zoom, which opens the doors to meetings all across the country."

Use Your Toolbox

You will need to rely on all the tools in your toolbox to help you stay on track during the holidays. Please be aware that many addicts are more likely to relapse after the holidays. Sometimes, the stress and complicated feelings that holidays can stir up lead us toward old, poor coping strategies and we relapse once life returns to “normal.” If necessary, rely more heavily on your support network to help you stay on track. Just as you plan ahead for the holidays themselves, plan ahead for how to weather the strong emotions that can flood us once the holidays are over.

Being in recovery means you’ve already shown extreme strength and resilience. You have already proven your courage and are capable of navigating this tricky time in a healthy way. We at Parkdale Center wish every one of our friends and families in recovery a Happy, Healthy, Enjoyable Holiday Season. If you’re struggling with addiction or could use support during this time, please reach out. We’re here to help.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020 09:14