With the holiday season in full swing, avoiding relapse should be a top priority for anyone in recovery. What are the best ways to steer clear of potential problems, keep a recovery program in tip top shape, and focus on make this time of year one filled with joyful memories rather than regrets?
Potential Holiday Pitfalls
In our last Thought Provoking article, we talked about and examined whether or not there was any truth to the common recovery adage that the holidays can be a risky time for people in sobriety. Because of the many emotions running high, the alcohol based holiday parties, and the overall stresses that come with the holidays the can indeed be a difficult to for someone in recovery. While we took a look at why this is last week, lets focus this week on the many different strategies that can be used to alleviate some of this risk and set yourself up for success during the winter festivities.
Staying Rooted In Your Support System
Maintaining a solid plan for how you are going to stay rooted in your support system is key during the holidays. Often, schedules get busy, changes are made last minute, and people are pulled out of their routines during this time of year. For alcoholics in recovery, reliance on a recovery routine is a big part of staying sober. One of the best ways to combat this is to plan for contingencies. If you are going out of town, frequent phone calls with those in your recovery community is one way to stay connected.
Limiting time away from your support network, especially in early recovery during this time of year is also helpful. If travel is going to take place, don’t leave your program at home. Find local 12 step meetings wherever you are planning on going and remain accountable to the other individuals in your network. Making those phone calls and being present for others in your recovery community helps them as much as it helps you.
Bump Up The Service
Giving back to others helps immensely when it comes to avoiding relapse. The holidays are a great time of year to do this, and rather than making the season about what you are getting, focus on making it about what you are giving. There are tons of opportunities for being of service during this time of year. Volunteer work is plentiful – helping out with food drives, toy drives, assisting in putting on holiday meals for the less fortunate and finding ways to give back to your local 12 step group or Alano club are all great options.
Choose Your Surroundings Wisely
The winter season comes filled with holiday parties. work parties, family gatherings, and other events can all be focused on alcohol consumption. Sometimes these events may seem unavoidable because of the expectations surrounding them. Family wants you to participate with relatives, you don’t want to look bad to your go workers, and the idea of missing out may seem hard to stomach. Putting recovery first though, means choosing when and if you attend these events wisely.
If you know that there is going to be a heavy focus on drinking and that party goers are going to be intoxicated, it can be a smarter alternative to skip these events altogether. Working with a 12 step sponsor or a therapist when it comes to making these decisions will allow you to have clarity when deciding whether or not to participate. If you do decide to attend something where you know there will be lots of drinking, set up roadblocks for yourself to prevent a slip. Avoiding relapse in these situations can be as simple as making a call to a sponsor or someone else in recovery beforehand and leaving an event to call someone if you start to get uncomfortable. Another great way to prevent relapse is to make a commitment for after the event. Have a newcomer or friend in recovery expecting you to pick them up to take them to a 12 step meeting or set a coffee date with someone in your support group. These strategies also give you an out if things get too uncomfortable and put an end time on the engagement.
Don’t Forget The Basics
Throughout the whole season, it can be easy to get caught up in the busy time of the year. Avoiding relapse is much easier if your regular recovery routine is not compromised too much. Of course keeping meeting attendance high, but also making sure that you are taking care of yourself. Not letting exercise slip to the wayside, communicating with a sponsor and working with sponsees, staying engaged in your prayer and meditation process, making time for self-reflection and doing all of the other things that become second nature once we get some time in recovery. Losing sight of the basics can happen quickly as emotions and expectations run high during the holidays, so making checklists to keep yourself accountable to as well as communicating any upcoming stresses or potentially overwhelming situations to a sponsor or therapist are both good ways to implement a system of checks and balances to insure that you are staying on track.
A Time For Gratitude
The reality is, the holiday season can be an amazing time filled with gratitude, new memories, and great opportunities to give back to those around you. Focusing on these simple strategies go a long way towards avoiding relapse. Remember, recovery comes first, even during the holidays. Nothing is worth compromising your sobriety over, and as long as that is being placed first, the season can be fantastic. Set yourself up for a great, sober holiday and many more in the future!