Clean And Sober During The Holidays? 13 Tips To Avoid Relapse
Whether you have recently entered recovery or have been clean and sober for some time, holidays can be challenging to navigate for a variety of reasons. Number one – most people will encounter triggers when attending holiday parties and family gatherings. Number two – family functions can be a huge source of stress when there is a history of dysfunctional dynamics.
However, there are few different approaches you can take that will reduce your risk of relapse and ensure you have a safe and happy holiday!
1. Remember that sobriety is your #1 priority. In other words, if you are in fear that attending a party or gathering may prompt a relapse, don’t go. Whether or not everyone understands is not your problem – you have to put yourself first.
2. Set boundaries and let important people know about them in advance – if you believe they won’t respect them, feel free to opt out (or leave early if your boundaries have been crossed.) For example, if you are a recovering alcoholic, you might say “don’t offer me a drink.”
3. Make sure you have a convenient means of transportation if you need to leave, and have an escape plan. Don’t depend on a ride who might not be ready to leave when you want to.
Have backup if you need it for a place to stay and fall back on friends or other family members who are willing to help you out given your situation. Moreover, don’t set yourself up to feel trapped.
4. Bring someone with you that you trust to help you stay clean and sober and avoid relapse – a person who can stay strong and offer realistic advice if things get hairy.
5. Find meetings or support groups nearby, even if you don’t usually attend them. They can be a valuable resource especially on a day when most people don’t have to be concerned with such things. You may find a kindred spirit with another who is not just an alcoholic or addict but has family or mental health issues – whatever you happen to be dealing with.
6. Remember that you have self-control and personal power, which can be especially important in situations that are historically stressful. Avoid family drama, others who are imbibing, and any situation that makes you anxious or depressed.
7. If possible find a place(s) in or near the gathering location that you can regroup and take a breather. You can utilize a car, a bathroom, or a space at a nearby friend or relative.
This may serve as means to allow for a brief exit without completely checking out of the event. This place can be essential to your recovery survival if you get into an argument with a family member but you aren’t quite ready to bolt yet.
8. Don’t expect anything or anyone to be different just because you are. Prepare yourself for the worst case scenario.
You already know what your family is like, and the vast majority of people who battle any type of addiction come from families which, simply put, have multiple issues – be it substance abuse, physical, mental, or sexual abuse, mental illness or negative family dynamics and conflict.
9. Don’t bring the drama yourself. This isn’t the time for blaming or airing grievances. Don’t expect anyone to be held accountable for the past. If you do, you are likely to get yourself and others into considerable conflict and right now, you need to keep your emotions stable and negative thoughts at bay.
10. If you can’t have a buddy available personally on hand, try to have one on the ready by phone or via social media. If not a sponsor or therapist, have someone “on call” whom you know is willing to talk to you if you need the support.
11. If you don’t have a family or gathering to attend and you don’t want to be alone, consider alternatives such as volunteering at a soup kitchen, attending a meeting, or even going out for Chinese.
Again, social media can be a buffer when you’re feeling lonely or emotionally stressed. If you chose to be alone, try to make the time spent meaningful and enjoyable.Note: If social media is a trigger, however, stay away. It’s okay to be isolated if you need to, as long spend your time in a healthy way.
12. Finally, don’t forget that you are not alone. Even if you don’t have another friend or family member in recovery, there are millions of people worldwide who are dealing with demons of one type or another during the holidays. And not only people who are addicted to substances, but people with eating disorders, gambling addiction, and all sorts of mental health issues.
Be safe, be smart, have a plan in place, and you will have the best tools you need to avoid a relapse and a clean and sober holiday!
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology