When visiting home for the holidays, there is pressure to go, go, go — that’s why it’s important to take a step back, take care of yourself, and rest, especially if you begin to feel overwhelmed.
Content warning: addiction, alcoholism, and sobriety
We all know that the holidays can be a challenging time for most, including those going through addiction recovery. The holiday season has many holidays, including Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s. It’s a time of spending quality time or catching up with family and friends. These times can sometimes be awkward or uncomfortable, especially if you have been getting treatment for your addictions. You will likely get lots of questions asking how you have been, where you have been, and what your plans are for this upcoming year. I will cover four tips to help you manage the holiday season and hopefully set you up for success in staying sober.
Prepare your conversations ahead of time
Like mentioned above, there will certainly be a few people to ask where you have been, and what you have been up to for the last few months. You don’t want to be caught off guard and be put in an awkward situation. If you are comfortable sharing all the details, go for it! This would be the best approach, as sharing your story and your progress is a huge component for personal growth in recovery. If that’s not a place you are currently at, that’s okay too — that’s why I say plan ahead. If you want to be vague, figure the best plan of action, practice what you’re going to say, as this will drastically decrease your anxiety. If you’re currently in a program, ask your case manager or one of your peers if they would talk with you and let you practice those conversations. One of the main reasons for relapse over the holidays is drinking to cope with stress or anxiety during those social situations — preparing for this will help you avoid relapse.
Have a support system
Plan to attend some meetings wherever you will be visiting. It’s very easy to find meetings on the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) website and there will be at least a few options available depending on where you visit. The key to these first two tips is planning ahead. Before any trips back home, or even before family comes to visit you, make sure to meet with someone supportive and get an outline of what your days might look like. That means planning your meetings around your holiday schedule. Make those meetings a priority, while also prioritizing other healthy behaviors. These things may include: time for the gym, time to see friends that aren’t a bad influence, time to relax, time to talk with your sponsor, basically all of the things you were currently doing to stay sober — don’t stop.
This means you don’t have to see every single friend or family member. Prioritize the must-see people, and don’t feel bad if you can’t go everywhere. A lot of times you will be receiving calls and texts from everyone talking about how they would love to see you, this is where you will need to set boundaries. Remember, your recovery comes first and foremost and taking the time to see friends and family comes second. A tip that makes this easier is to set one day where you have an open invitation for those friends or family to come to you. This makes it much easier to manage and will prevent you from feeling like you didn’t put an effort out to see anyone.
Rest is more important than you think. As stated previously, there is a tendency to drink or abuse substances when we begin to feel stressed, or are in stressful situations. One of the best ways to combat stress, and keep a healthy mind is to get rest. When we rest, our brains repair and rejuvenate. Each time we go through something stressful our minds need to recovery. When that occurs, your ability to overcome future stressful situations improves. A good way to understand how this works is to compare it to working out physically.
We need to push our bodies sometimes, physically and mentally, but if we don’t rest, we will never recover. When visiting home for the holidays, there is pressure to go, go, go — that’s why it’s important to take a step back, take care of yourself, and rest, especially if you begin to feel overwhelmed. The bottom line is, stress impairs our judgment, and if you combine that with a lack of rest, that judgment is exponentially more impaired. You need to find time to take care of yourself and step away sometimes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking an afternoon nap when it’s needed. The benefits of catching up on rest and repairing your mind will benefit you in the long run.
Most importantly, take this holiday season as a time to enjoy yourself, and count all that you are grateful for. Practice healthy behaviors and build on the progress you have already made in your recovery. Have fun, be safe, and go into the New Year as a wiser and stronger version of yourself.