By Amy Sedgwick
Director of Clinical Operations, Mountainside
The Holidays in Early Recovery
The holiday season is the “most wonderful time of the year” for many people. However, for the newly sober, the
Holidays can bring an overwhelming amount of:
These emotions can amplify cravings that may lead to substance abuse and can sometimes lead to a relapse.
Whether you are trying to safe guard your sobriety or simply enjoy this holiday season to the fullest, it is important to recognize triggers that can spike seasonal stress. Here are some tips on how stay sober and how to avoid stress and have your best holiday season yet:
#1 Stick to a budget.
It probably comes as no surprise, but one of the main causes of holiday stress is money. While the Holidays are certainly not about buying the most expensive gifts, preparing the most elaborate meals, and wearing the most extravagant outfits, it is easy to get swept away during this time of the year.
To avoid spending more than you can afford and landing yourself in financial trouble – and inevitable stress – set a budget. And more importantly, stick to it!
Remember, you don’t have to max out your credit cards to show your loved ones you care. This year, try making some gifts yourself. Homemade gifts can not only be more affordable (and fun to make), but they can also be more meaningful.
If you have a large family or group of friends, try doing a gift exchange such as secret Santa or white elephant. Not only will this help you stay on budget, but it will also add an extra level of fun to gift giving.
#2 Make a schedule.
Decorating your house, buying gifts, preparing special dinners, and entertaining visiting relatives. The Holidays can certainly add on to your regular to-do list. If you don’t create a schedule, it is easy for you to get overwhelmed and let important things fall through the cracks.
Before the Holidays are in full swing, sit down, and write down everything you need to accomplish. Create a schedule that includes your regular day-to-day as well as holiday related tasks.
These day to day activities may include self-care rituals like yoga, 12-step meetings, church or the gym. Make sure that you schedule some time to take care of yourself. No matter how long your list is, maintaining your sobriety should be at the top of it. Don’t skip out on your meetings or counseling. After all, they are what keep you grounded in your recovery. Also, make sure to schedule some time to unwind and relax. Remember, the best gift you can give yourself is self-care.
#3 Say “No”.
You might feel obligated to attend every event you get invited to, but know that it is ok to politely decline.
Remember, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, especially if it is going to risk your mental health or recovery.
If you are not ready to attend your office party and explain why you aren’t drinking, then don’t go. If you get invited to an event but you know that there will be too much drinking and you are worried it might trigger you to drink, don’t go. If you know that the dinner at your cousin’s house will be filled with family drama and will only result in conflict and resentment, pass on it.
You don’t have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations just because it’s the Holidays. Instead, spend this time doing something you enjoy with those who support your recovery. Throw your own sober party, watch classic holiday movies, go ice skating, or simply spend a night in with your loved ones. However, if you feel you must go, even for a brief period, bring a sober companion and have your exit strategy prepared ahead of time.
#4 Surround yourself with positivity.
This is a busy time for everyone, and often, people forget what is truly important. Stay away from all of the sales filled with angry people fighting o#4 Surround yourself with positivity.ver the newest iPhone, over packed restaurants, and their irritated workers, and anyone who is detrimental to your well-being. Instead, surround yourself with positive people.
Giving back allows you to help others while helping yourself.
Go to extra meetings.
Organize sober events.
Volunteer for a local charity.
Not only will seeing how you are making a difference in someone else’s life put a smile on your face but it will serve as a reminder of how far you’ve come.
#5 Manage your expectations.
If this is your first holiday season sober, you might have expectations of how things will unfold. It is important to keep these expectations realistic. If your relationship with your sibling is damaged, don’t expect for it to be suddenly repaired because it’s Hanukah. If you are unhappy with your job, don’t expect for that to change simply because you got a holiday bonus.
As great as the decorations may be, whatever problems were there before Christmas will probably be there afterwards.
Remember, the Holidays are a wonderful time, but they are also just another day. Live one day at a time and celebrate that you’re spending this holiday healthy and sober. Your addiction recovery is the greatest gift there is!