The holidays can be a difficult time for many people, bringing forth feelings of stress, loneliness, grief, depression, and other unwanted emotions. All too often, these feelings can trigger the abuse of food, alcohol or drugs as an unhealthy coping mechanism. For those in addiction recovery, these types of feelings, along with the social triggers present at holiday gatherings, can make the holidays a particularly challenging time.
So, how can you protect your sobriety during the holidays? Here are some tips that can help.
Practice self-care. Provide yourself with a strong foundation for mental wellness by prioritizing sufficient sleep, a healthy diet, and regular exercise. These three things can provide you with the strength to manage your stress and regulate your emotions, which in turn can help you to overcome emotional triggers that could jeopardize your sobriety.
Maintain your recovery support system. Keep your counseling appointments, make your AA or NA meetings, attend your group therapy sessions. Stay committed to whatever program, actions or support system that has carried you this far into your recovery.
Identify and limit triggers. Make a list of your emotional, environmental, familial, and situational triggers and define ways to avoid or limit your exposure to them. By managing your exposure, you are less likely to become overwhelmed and be able to maintain resolve throughout the holiday season.
Give yourself permission to say “NO”. Decline invitations to gatherings that you feel are a risk to your sobriety. Although social pressure can be strong, it is perfectly acceptable to say “no”. Your well-being and sobriety are most important and the people that care for you will understand.
Make a plan. Prepare for an event by planning to include people or things that will help you to feel more comfortable and avoid temptation. Invite a sober friend to come along to act as a buffer and to provide support. Take your favorite non-alcoholic beverage to enjoy, so that you don’t feel deprived when others are partaking in holiday cocktails.
Rehearse. Practice declining offers of drugs or alcohol, as well as answering questions about your sobriety. When the time comes, your rehearsed response will come more readily and help you to avoid feeling awkward or anxious.
Start a new tradition. Suggest a new, healthier activity as an alternative to traditional gatherings involving alcohol or drugs, such as sledding or dinner and a sleigh ride. If your usual group is opposed to a healthier alternative, then consider opportunities with a different group of people that enjoy sober activities.
Practice mindfulness. Be present and calm your mind through mindfulness or meditation. Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can be effective in combatting both drug cravings and habitual substance use.
Ask for help. Reach out to sober contacts, friends, family, or your community for added support when you feel vulnerable or overwhelmed.
And, of course, we at High Country Behavioral Health, are always ready and willing to help too!
We hope that these tips will help you remain vigilant on your road to recovery and guide you through a happy and healthy holiday season.