The holidays can be a sticky time for people in recovery, for a variety of reasons. Alcohol tends to flow freely at events and old disagreements can make family gatherings awkward or stressful. Successfully navigating family feasts and other stressful events during the holiday season is challenging, but these tips can help you remain strong in your recovery despite the temptations and triggers.
Take Care of Yourself
Taking extra good care of yourself during the holiday season helps give you the strength and resolve to maintain sobriety in the face of temptation. Good self-care is a major factor for preventing relapse.1
Make sure you’re getting adequate sleep. Eat healthy food, get plenty of fresh air and exercise and keep your stress levels down. If your schedule is busy, be sure to make time to rest so you feel healthy and capable of handling whatever roadblocks come your way.
Stress is a major trigger for relapse.2 If family events tend to stress you out, combat these feelings ahead of time by meditating, doing yoga or engaging in a period of progressive relaxation. Doing this before you head to the gathering helps you arrive calm and with a clear, positive mindset.
If you begin to feel stress during the event, find a quiet place to take a break from the festivities. Breathe deeply and evaluate how you will continue to cope with stressors before you head back to the party.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Before you head to the family feast, spend some quiet time reflecting on potential trouble spots and decide ahead of time how you’ll handle them. Maybe you’ve traditionally had a glass of wine or two while you’re mashing the potatoes, or maybe your family likes to make toasts at the dinner table. Decide in advance how you will handle each situation, such as by distracting yourself, taking a walk around the block or calling a friend for support.
Set Clear Boundaries
Set boundaries that help protect you emotionally, mentally and physically. For example, firmly refuse to get engaged in discussions you know will trigger stress or frustration. Simply walk away and take deep breaths if you need to, even if it might feel rude for you to do so. Don’t feel like you need to put your recovery at risk for someone else’s comfort.
Having a supportive friend you can call when things get sticky can make a big difference in how you handle temptations and triggers. If possible, invite a supportive friend to accompany you to your family event to help you get through it intact.
Finding enjoyment in recovery is important. Instead of focusing on not drinking, focus on the conversations you’re having, the memories you’re making and the good will you’re feeling. This is a good time to mend rifts and reconnect with favorite family members, and it’s a good time to mindfully draw on the arsenal of coping skills you learned in treatment.
The holidays don’t have to be a drag if you’re new to recovery. By planning ahead and taking good care of yourself throughout the season, you’ll find the strength and flexibility you need to stay on the path to long-term sobriety.