Advice for staying sober during the holidays: For many people who are in Recovery, staying sane and sober during the holiday season can be challenging. It’s a time of higher stress and many risks. Financial stress, external triggers everywhere, family dynamics and traditions and unrealistic expectations that are placed upon us or self-imposed.
The good news is that there are decades of collected wisdom and practice shared within the Recovery community. You do not have to face challenges alone anymore.
Advice for Staying Sober During the Holidays
- When asked for advice on staying sober during the holidays, a few things immediately come to mind:
- Dial-in your Step 1 (or, be mindful and respectful of your Substance Use Disorder diagnosis)
- Understand the role stress plays in relapse
- Understand how family dynamics can trigger strong emotional reactions
- Revisit your Recovery Plan, it can save your life
What is Addiction? “… a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. It is characterized by the inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioural control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviours and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction involves cycles of relapse and remission.” Source: The American Society of Addiction Medicine
Those who accept the diagnosis will be willing to engage in a pro-active lifestyle called Recovery and work to keep the condition in Remission.
What is Recovery? “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” Source: SAMHSA
Advice for Staying Sober During the Holidays: Be Aware of Factors That Can Lead to Relapse
- Negative feelings
- Peer Pressure
- Testing Personal Control
All these factors are usually present more often during the holiday season.
Staying Sober for Family Gatherings
If we are at family gatherings in early recovery, we can have experience strong emotional triggers that are hard to cope with. We may have been numbed out by substances for years or even decades, so “buttons” are being pushed that we may not even know existed.
Hopefully, we have learned new coping skills and have some experience practicing them. The earlier in Recovery a person is, the more vulnerable they are. Risks should be examined realistically and remember that avoidance may be the safest option in early Recovery. Testing personal control can lead to disaster; is it worth the risk?
No Recovery Plan, or an inadequate plan, is a recipe for misery.
The Recipe for Safety and Joy
Step 2 and 3 suggest that a solution to our problem is available and that we need to reach out and make an effort to connect.
Please stay connected to your ARC Buddies, sponsor/mentor, recovery peers and use the Aurora resources. I have a lot of material that I can share and process with you. Please reach out!
Review your treatment material, such as lessons on boundaries, assertiveness, family systems, triggers and cravings. Your Cognitive Therapy lessons may have helped you identify common thinking errors and core beliefs that may need revising. Your 4th Step will have taught you about the risks of resentment, self- pity, unexamined fear, and loneliness.
And as I always remind members in treatment: prepare to have a wonderful time! Experiencing the holidays with a clear mind and a new perspective can be so powerful and profound.
Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on a Wednesday, you may consider attending Continuing Care in person at Gimli (the Winnipeg office is closed Christmas and New Year’s Day).
Christmas does not have to be a time of anxiety, pressure and potential relapse…
It can be a time for:
- Giving to others…
Be True To Yourself