How to Survive the Holidays in Recovery
Situation one: You’re at a work party, and it’s awkward.
Your boss is making forced jokes and everyone is fake laughing. Coworkers take big gulps of their spiked punch hoping it will loosen the tension. You desperately want a drink.
Situation two: You’re stressing out. You’re back in your hometown for the first time in a long time, and you don’t feel like yourself. Family members are arguing about politics. If you don’t have kids, Grandma is reminding you that you aren’t getting any younger. If you do have kids, Grandma is lecturing you that you aren’t raising them right. You know you could get in touch with the dealer you used to go to when you lived here. What do you do?
The holidays are hard. They can be a muddled mess of insecurities, painful memories, family, temptations, and lack of sunlight. If not prepared, a person in recovery can easily slide back into old habits if they’re not careful. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you enter the holiday season:
Plan an escape route.
Maybe you think it’s wise to carpool with a friend, but what if that friend wants to stay longer? Plan on driving yourself, knowing the bus route, or calling an Uber.
Remember, you don’t have to go.
You don’t have to prove you are strong by putting yourself in front of temptation. Staying sober is more important.
You might think, “People are expecting me” or “They’ll notice if I’m not there.” But is that really true? Will the coworker that you make small talk with every Monday really care if you aren’t at the work party? Will your aunt really be angry if you choose this year to spend with the other side of the family?
True, sometimes there really are obligations that others expect you to show up for. But ask yourself if complying to protect someone’s feelings is worth risking your recovery.
Ask yourself what you are really missing out on.
New Year’s Eve is just another day. Christmas is just another Monday. Hanukkah will come again next year. Are you really missing out on that much by not indulging? Ask yourself what will happen if you celebrate with alcohol or another substance. Maybe the buzz will last for a few hours, but in the morning you might have a hangover. Or there might be physical, legal, or psychological consequences of your choice. And you’ll have to cope with the guilt. You’ll have to tell your support group about the slip up. You’ll either fall back into full-blown addiction or work hard to keep yourself steady. Is a few hours of pleasure worth it?
Start a new tradition.
The whole point of holidays is to remember something good that happened in the past—usually an overcome obstacle. We celebrate every year because humans are forgetful and need annual reminding. So we repeat the same traditions—sing the same songs, pull out the same decorations—to remember the past and hope for the future.
Buy a tree ornament that symbolizes how your life has changed since being sober. Find a special activity you can do with your kids each year, such as getting a tree, ice-skating, or baking cookies. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or as a bell-ringer. Find a song that portrays your new hope and play it on repeat every year.
Enjoy the parts of the holiday you like.
If you like pecan pie, cut yourself a big slice of pecan pie and savor it. If you like ice skating, go ice skating. If you like the music associated with your winter holiday, blast it everywhere and sing it at the top of your lungs.
Holidays are good. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed. Holidays aren’t a time that you are deprived of anything. Instead, they are a time that you are given good gifts—love, family, friends, warmth, and good memories. You aren’t depriving yourself by cutting out harmful substances; you are avoiding substances so that you can experience more happiness and life.
A friend who’s in recovery recently posted a picture of her beautifully-decorated Christmas tree. The caption explained that for years, because she was caught up in addiction, the holidays weren’t a happy time for her. She wrote that this year the holidays meant a lot to her. This year, she is sober and can enjoy the traditions instead of worrying about being caught with drugs, or getting money for drugs, or feeling guilty for not being there for her family. This year, she said, is truly a season of comfort and joy.
If you are an adult who knows a child whose parent struggles with addiction, seek help for the parent as soon as possible at Victory Addiction Recovery Center or another center in their area. If you are struggling with addiction or have a family member who is, Victory Addiction Recovery Center can help you work through the emotional and relationship problems that result. Victory’s holistic approach provides family counseling for those in the recovery center. If you, or someone you know is abusing substances, contact Victory Addiction Recovery Center and ask about how to get help.
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