All the fun and festivities aside, the “most wonderful time of the year” can be rather challenging for many people. There are added responsibilities, long shopping lists, draining activities, and numerous situations that can feel overwhelmed. Seasonal depression and anxiety are at an all-time high. Some people feel extra isolated watching TV and scrolling through social media feeds that constantly advertise other people’s lives.
All of this is especially true for people who are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. The combined stress of social pressures, unhealthy eating, and overall fatigue is too often an easy recipe for relapse for these individuals.
If you or someone you love is at risk this year, don’t walk into the season without being prepared. By anticipating the increased demands of the holidays, you can take steps now to stay strong. With that in mind, below are six tips to help you stay sober through the weeks and months ahead.
- Ask for accountability. The holiday season is not the time to lose touch with supportive friends and relatives. The truth is, you’re going to need their help to endure upcoming challenges. So, right now, talk to a trusted friend, family member, therapist, or sponsor about your fears. Ask if they would be willing to assist you when you have cravings. Then, if you feel you’re about to relapse, call that person. Knowing that you have someone to talk to when you’re tempted to reach for an old vice can make a huge difference. It offers invaluable accountability and another reason to stay sober.
- Swap your substance. Since you can’t rely on drugs or alcohol to relieve stress, it’s vital to give yourself something else to reach for instead. Maybe it’s a favorite non-alcoholic drink or food. It could be a distracting activity, such as going for a walk or picking up a book. Substituting an old habit with a productive one could help you sustain your commitment — even when it’s challenging.
- Keep a beverage in your hand. If you are at gatherings where drinks are flowing this season, make sure to always have a non-alcoholic beverage in your hand. This prevents constant offers for a drink, and it ensures you know what you’re consuming. Holding a glass, you can skip the awkward dialogue that comes when a well-meaning friend wants to give you a holiday spirit.
- Avoid triggers. Here’s another simple tip that could do wonders for limiting temptation: Choose your events carefully. In reality, you don’t have to attend every party or participate in each festivity. If you already know you’re going to struggle in certain settings or with specific people, skip them — or, at the very least, limit your exposure. Keeping yourself safe and sober is more important.
- Be honest. Be transparent about your recovery journey with the trusted loved ones in your life. When the people who care about you know that you’re working against certain addictions, they will be more careful not to offer you a beer or glass of wine. More than that, they can support you and provide vital solidarity to see you through the season.
- Take care of yourself. Last but not least — given that the holiday season is often full of stress — do yourself a favor and practice a little extra self-care. Decide now that, as much as possible, you’ll eat properly, get regular exercise, prioritize sleep, and make time for activities that nourish your body and mind. Load up on the joyful, safe traditions you love most, from movie-watching to cookie-baking to writing seasonal cards. Likewise, take bubble baths, have at-home spa nights, or FaceTime with long-distance loved ones. By practicing some personal care, you can feel stronger and better equipped to say no to harmful habits.
For individuals in recovery, taking time to emotionally plan and prepare for the holiday season is an absolute must. By thinking through temptations and triggers that are likely to occur, you can create a clear strategy for dealing with those challenges so that you are capable of resisting them. Use the six steps above to guide the process and get in control of the weeks and months to come.
About the Author: Tammy Cate is the founder and CEO of Transformations By The Gulf, a leading drug rehab facility. Cate is passionate about helping others lead a sober and fulfilling life. She maintains a hands-on rapport with staff and residents to ensure everyone is able to receive an individualized experience.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.
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