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7 Ways to Navigate Holiday Gatherings in Recovery 

By on Dec 7, 2023 in Blog

Holiday dinners can be some of the most memorable experiences this time of the year. Those memories could be good or bad. If you are like many people who associate holiday gatherings with stress and frustration, you may be wondering how you’ll get through the next month or so.

In one NAMI study, researchers found that 64% of people reported worsening symptoms in their mental health during the holidays. Stress, depression, anxiety, and a worsening of other mental health disorders can lead a person down a very slippery road, especially when they are in addiction recovery.

If you are likely to attend a family dinner or holiday celebration of any type, your drug and alcohol addiction recovery should remain your number one priority. To ensure your sobriety,  incorporate these 7 strategies.

#1: Avoid going where you will be exposed to triggers or trauma.

The first and most important rule is not to attend any event that puts you at risk of relapse. Avoid any situation in which:

  • You relive painful memories
  • You have experienced trauma in the past
  • You have positive memories of using substances

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is simply avoid a dangerous situation. If you do plan to attend and these risks are there, set up a counseling session with your therapist to make sure you go into the event with strategies to protect yourself. 

#2: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

If this is your first year in recovery, one of the worst decisions you can make is to try to host an entire family gathering on your own. If you feel that you must host an event in your home, get some help. Ask people to participate by preparing a dish. Ask a friend to help you with the prep work or clean up duties.

Avoid putting too much of yourself out there. When you do, you increase your stress levels, and that can ultimately lead to anxiety and the onset of cravings. The stress will take away from the good experience you might otherwise have.

#3: Maintain your privacy – or not.

It is 100% up to you if you want to tell people about your addiction recovery or not. You absolutely do not need to share anything with anyone. On the other hand, you certainly can do so – and you should feel proud in doing so. You’ve worked hard at addiction recovery and deserve to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Here is the bottom line, though. The people you are with must be willing to accept and support you. If your family dinners involve rude individuals who think they know what you need better than you do, avoid talking about recovery. 

#4: If you’re hosting, it’s your rules.

One of the risks for some people during addiction recovery is the fear that they will be exposed to substances. While your family member may think, “It’s just a glass of wine,” you know the real risks.

For that reason, if you’re hosting an event, don’t feel as though you have to include alcohol (or other substances). Anyone not willing to participate as a result will be missed, but that’s okay. This is your event and your way of celebrating. Make it meaningful to you and those willing to share with you.

#5: Don’t isolate yourself or skip socializing.

Not attending a family dinner or holiday celebration is certainly in your right. Yet, you also don’t want to hole up in your home and just wait for it to pass. That’s not going to be fair to you, either.

Instead, find new things to do and ways to engage with people who support and love you. For example, if you are unable to be around family this year, why not find out what the alumni of your addiction treatment center are doing? Consider attending a new alumni event or recovery meeting. 

#6: Engage in therapy.

You may not need to be in a drug treatment center right now, but you should consider providing yourself with extra support. Meet with your therapist, and/or consider some of the alternative therapies that can fit within the holidays and offer a bit of healing. Consider:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapies
  • Biofeedback
  • Acupuncture
  • Equine therapy
  • Light therapy

These are supportive treatments that can often provide exceptional support to your body and mind during times of stress.

#7: Be you and be proud of it.

Take a few moments to recognize that what everyone else says, thinks, and does really doesn’t have to define you or the way you celebrate the holidays. Find a way to be authentic in your own recovery. This may mean:

  • Doing something new and skipping that family dinner
  • Creating a new, meaningful tradition within the family dinner
  • Spending time one-on-one with people you really care about

Find the Support You Need Now

One of the best things you can do right now is to seek out mental health support and therapy if you are at risk for relapse. At Victory Addiction Recovery Center in Lafayette, LA, we will be here for you all season long. Reach out 24/7 when you need help.

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