Regardless of the stage of recovery someone is in, certain situations can present some challenges — the holiday season can be one of them.
“While many greet the holidays with merriment, family get-togethers and parties, it can be a difficult time for those in recovery,” said Kat Stevens, CEO of Recovery Centers of America in Danvers and Westminster. “If you are wondering if it is possible to enjoy the holidays while avoiding triggers and maintaining your sobriety, the answer is yes!”
Here are some tips from Recovery Centers of America:
1. Have a support system. Social support is crucial since social isolation is a risk factor for relapse. We all need people to relate to and depend on during our struggles. This can be your sponsor, a family member, or a friend, whomever can provide you with open ears and a caring heart. Many believe that the key to recovery from addictions is being connected to others. Establish days and times that you regularly communicate with your support system during the holidays. It is important to know that you don’t have to be in crisis to seek help. Talking about any thoughts or urges related to using substances and implementing strategies to help is vital to your continued recovery.
2. Stay active. Ever hear “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”? Don’t be idle! Run, walk, ride your bike, do yoga, anything that gets you moving and keeps your mind and body busy. These activities are great for both your mental and physical health and produce endorphins which literally help you feel better.
3. Practice self-care. Taking care of ourselves may seem so obvious, but who do we most neglect when life gets busy? Our kids, parents, partners, or friends can sometimes sap the energy and strength right out of us. Practice self-care through activities like meditation, mindfulness, or even home spa days. Allow yourself to be pampered in soothing ways to ward off stress that can trigger drug or alcohol thoughts or use.
4. Eat well. The holidays can often feel gluttonous with all the available tasty treats, and unhealthy eating can make you feel lethargic and “blah,” which can breed feelings of “why not?” Why not eat that cake, shop online, drink that alcohol, or take that drug? Help prevent this by eating nutritious, nourishing meals that will make you feel better from the inside out. Eating well is fundamental to good health and well-being.
5. Know your triggers — and prepare for them. Treatment and/or a therapist likely helped you identify your triggers and now is not the time to forget. Understand what leads you to want to use drugs or alcohol — an old friend, a certain place — and steer clear if not entirely, at least on days you may be feeling particularly down. If your family stresses you out and drives feelings of wanting to use, you are not obligated to get together with them in person. With the variety of technology that is available, you can Facetime, Zoom, or call to send your love and share holiday wishes, then lean on your trusted support system.
Whether you’re fresh out of a treatment program or years into your recovery, it can feel like you’re walking on thin ice from Thanksgiving to January. Just remember what the holidays really mean: a chance to share, heal, and rebuild bonds with your friends and family. Stay focused on the positive, stay committed and be honest with yourself and your loved ones.