While the hope is certainly that you and your loved ones have stayed sober throughout the holidays, the unfortunate reality is that holiday relapse is common. The various pressures and expectations associated with the holidays can be difficult on addicts and alcoholics in recovery, especially if one is new to sobriety. If someone finds themselves disconnected and relapsing during the holidays, what can be done to “get back on the wagon” in the beginning of the new year?
Reconnecting With Community
From the perspective of the addict coming back from a relapse, one of the most important first steps to take is to reconnect with a recovery community. Often, disconnection can occur during the hustle and bustle of the holidays which can be one of the factors leading to a relapse. In order to break the cycle of disconnection, reaching out to a healthy community is crucial. Rather than isolating and sitting in morbid reflection, taking steps to reintegrate into a healthy social setting and joining up with individuals who are stronger in their recovery goes a long way to keep a relapse short. It can be easy to let the shame get the better of you, but doing so will only prolong the relapse. Most individuals in recovery have witnessed their share of relapse with friends and acquaintances in their community, and will traditionally welcome a willing individual back with open arms. Leaning on this support while regaining the ground under your feet is important when coming back from a holiday relapse.
Re-Establish A Routine
Once someone has reconnected with a sober community, a routine should be re-established. Holiday relapse often comes as a result of the routine that has worked for a long time being broken. Things like meeting attendance, work with a therapist and a sponsor, service to others and basic house cleaning activities need to be focused on. Getting back to a regular 12 step meeting schedule, including establishing a home-group to be accountable to, helps to bring back a level of consistency that may have been lost. The phrase “back to basics” is thrown out a lot inside of Alcoholics Anonymous and getting back to the basics can be one of the most effective ways of getting back on track following a relapse. Addicts need routine to be accountable to and without it, often find themselves in sticky situations.
Identifying The Problem
After setting the groundwork following a holiday relapse by reconnecting with a healthy community and re-establishing a routine for recovery, getting to the root of the problem is helpful in order to learn from a relapse and prevent a repeat of the situation. Work with a sponsor is an important part of 12 step based recovery, and an individual coming back from a relapse should work with their sponsor to identify the problem areas in their recovery that may have contributed to the relapse that took place. Looked at from this perspective, a relapse can be a learning experience that allows for someone to grow and get passed whatever blocks existed in their life prior that led to the relapse. Ultimately, the experience can be used to help someone else out and potentially prevent someone else from going through the same thing.
Sober Living To Gain Footing
Depending on how much time sober someone had when they relapse, it may be prudent to evaluate going into a sober living to get their feet back on the ground. There is no black and white rule when it comes to a decision like this, but often, especially if the individual had only a couple years sober or less or the relapse had particularly damaging external consequences, entering a sober living can be very beneficial. This is something that should be discussed with a sponsor and someone’s own recovery community. Generally, the people that know you best and the mentors that have helped guide you in your recovery have your best interests in mind, and should be leaned on when making any big decisions coming back from a holiday relapse.
The Family’s Role
As the family of someone coming back from a holiday relapse, emotions can run high and the situation can be particularly devastating. The best thing that can be done is buckling down on Al-Anon work and meeting attendance. Staying connected and strong in an Al-Anon program better equips a family to deal with the emotional fallout of a loved one’s relapse, and allows more clear decision making to take place when it comes to responding. Remaining supportive as long as an individual is willing and intent on re-focusing on their recovery is important, but a crisis on the addict’s part does not constitute a crisis on the part of the family. Obviously, this is much easier said than done when family is involved, but remembering that it isn’t your responsibility to, nor do you have the ability to fix the addict in your life is important. Stay in communication, work an Al-Anon program, and be supportive, but don’t allow yourself to get trapped in the insanity that can accompany relapse.
Holiday Relapse Doesn’t Have To Be Permanent
While relapse is never fun, and hopefully not a part of your experience, if it does happen it does not have to be permanent. Getting into action right away, staying out of morbid reflection and focusing on the next indicated action can allow someone to turn a holiday relapse right back into a recovery. If you or a loved one has experience with a holiday relapse or getting sober after a relapse in general, what were the steps taken to get back on track?