While drug and alcohol addictions are always challenging for individuals, families, and other loved ones, the holidays tend to be especially stressful. Whether you are in early recovery or have years of sobriety trying to find some peace between family feuds, gift giving, finances, travel and highly social situations can be hard to come by. Not to mention, alcohol is often times a key component of the festivities. How do you navigate the pressure or desire to drink?
Stay Focused on YOU
It’s not uncommon once you’re in recovery to start to notice other peoples, ‘problem behaviors’. However, focusing on other peoples lack of control with drinking, bad attitudes, or you name it, is a sure fire way to get off track from your own goals. Try writing down five goals or motivating tips for yourself on a piece of paper before the festivities and bring it with you on the day of. Each time you notice yourself feeling triggered by your surroundings or bothered by others excuse yourself and spend some time reading over your notes.
If you’re with family that you don’t see often, or perhaps there’s just that one family member who really rubs you the wrong way, it’s essential to set your own boundaries. You don’t have to engage in conversations that you don’t want to. When a conversation is doing more bad than good, walk away from it, disengage. Before you arrive, take some time to identify your boundaries, what conversations are off limits, what individuals may you want to steer clear of, practice saying no and walking away. The most important thing to remember is, take care of yourself and stay on your own path.
Identify Recovery Support
The holidays are busy, your usual recovery support friend may be dealing with their own holiday stressors and unavailable. If travels involved, you may find yourself in a location where your usual recovery meetings are unavailable. This all comes at a time when you most certainly need all the positive supportive friends and structure from meetings as possible. Rather than just throwing up your hands and considering yourself out of luck, be proactive! Seek out new 12-step or support groups that will be available during the holidays, as well as in the location you’ll be traveling to. Speak with your therapist or sponsor and see if you can have permission to call if you’re in a crisis. If you have friends in recovery, you could also set up a scheduled time to call each other after your events. Regardless of what you choose, make sure you’ve got support lined up when needed!
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Ahh, Thanksgiving, we’ve all seen the photos or images with the smiling, happy, perfectly manicured family sitting around the dinner table, the big golden turkey, the table set to perfection. If that’s not your reality, and to be honest, it’s not most people’s, it’s easy to wonder, ‘What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I have that?’ . . . Take a step back, look at the uniqueness of your family, and realize no family is perfect and quite frankly, family events like the holidays tend to be a breeding ground for drama. Remind yourself, it’s just one day, the drama will pass – just stay out of it! There’s the saying, ‘we’ll look back on this one day and laugh,” but why wait?! To find humor in all of it, make it a game, how many times will that one family member make the same joke they’ve been making for what seems 50 years? Suggest putting a comedy on, like Elf. Bring Apples to Apples along with you. If all else fails, have a funny podcast downloaded on your phone that you can slip on.
Have an Exit Strategy
Regardless of the preparation you do, it’s possible you will run into a situation in which you need to leave. Sometimes, no amount of de-escalation or avoidance will de-escalate your feelings of discomfort. Know when to go and when it’s time, have a plan. Have or arrange or your own transportation, concoct a backup story if needed, and if you’re comfortable speak to the host and ask that they support you if you do decide to leave.
Again, we all know that the holidays can be rough, especially for those early in recovery. The important thing is to be kind to yourself, set yourself up for success and don’t be afraid to ask for support.
If you find yourself struggling, Footprints to Recovery’s available 24/7 – 7 days a week.