The holiday season is upon us, and what is a fun time for some – with parties and get-togethers – for others it can be difficult, fraught with emotion and expectation; and for those in recovery, it can be a minefield of triggers needing to be negotiated or avoided.
During the festive season, alcohol is everywhere, it is the ideal time for a drinker with problems to really let loose. A month where it is acceptable to get drunk in the morning or come home inebriated at night because others are doing the same.
It is not just the booze; the holidays are beset with anxiety and drama, much of it centred around the family, if that is dysfunctional then the stress and pressure created is often a catalyst to heavy drinking or an increase in drug use.
Whether this is your first sober Christmas, or you have been clean a while, the festivities, family connections and everything that goes with it can add up to the potential for feeling overwhelmed, so it is a good idea to be prepared with healthy practices and even an escape plan, to maintain your sobriety…and sanity.
Keep up with your routine and use your support system – stay on top of your recovery program and stick with familiar habits and safe practices. If you are staying close to home, then go to your regular twelve-step meetings. If you are going out of town, check what meetings are available close by, familiarise yourself with times and locations.
Keep literature close at hand, write in your journal. It is always good to have something to distract you from your own thoughts. Reading about other people’s recovery stories or listening to another fellow is a great way to stop the head from taking over.
Stay in touch with your sponsor and other fellowship friends – they will appreciate this as much as you do; and reaching out keeps you connected and accountable.
Where possible avoid triggers – limit your time around stressful situations and difficult people, and if in doubt don’t do it. One of the easiest ways to stay safe and to protect yourself from unwanted temptations and cravings is to avoid the people, places and things that are dangerous for your sobriety.
It isn’t always possible, especially around the holidays when people haven’t seen each other for some time and alcohol is involved, so it’s best to limit your exposure. Stick with family and friends who are supportive of your recovery, and who will extricate you if things get too much.
Another tip is to be useful, find jobs you can assist with – keeping yourself occupied keeps your mind off cravings, and stops you reliving past festive disasters. It also gives you a good excuse to escape to another room if people start asking awkward questions.
Have an exit strategy – firstly always remember you can say no. If that party or gathering is going to be too high risk, then just don’t go. There is no shame in admitting that things are tough, people who care about you will understand and those that are just going to get drunk won’t care.
Once you decide that you are up to a night out, always plan your exit. Drive yourself, have money and the number for a taxi, or have a reliable person on standby ready to pick you up. This means you can leave whenever you want to and are not reliant on getting a lift from someone else who may not want to leave when you do.
Eat before you go out, especially if the evening is going to be more about drinking and less about the food. It won’t be fun if you are stuck listening to Barry from accounts drone on about his third wife leaving him, on an empty stomach.
Set yourself some limits, if the conversation becomes more drunken ramblings than anything else, if everyone starts doing shots and pushing you to do them, if you are bored, tired or you’ve just had enough, take that as your cue to leave. You no longer need to be the last person at a party, you can go home, get comfortable and laugh at the sore heads they will have in the morning.
Take care of your body’s basic needs – food, water, sleep, exercise, and relaxation; all vital components to a healthy life and if your body is physically well, then it is easier to deal with mental stress and ward off relapse triggers.
Make sure you eat healthily and regularly; feelings of hunger can cloud judgement and cause you to make irrational choices. Plenty of fluids are always important as dehydration can cause the body real damage, however in very early recovery being thirsty can often be mistaken as a craving for alcohol, so drink lots of non-alcoholic fluids. Though it is best to limit caffeine as this can interfere with sleep.
Sleep, we all need 6-7 hours of good sleep per night. This enables our bodies to recharge and restore, for cells to regenerate and to give our bodies and brains time to recover. If you struggle getting enough sleep at night, try napping. A 20–30-minute power nap mid-afternoon can do wonders to quickly rejuvenate and get you through the rest of the day.
Exercise is another important factor; it keeps our hearts healthy and can help if we have trouble sleeping. A one hour walk in the fresh air is free, a great way to unwind and clear the mind, and it is a good opportunity to burn off all those extra calories consumed with the party snacks.
Make sure to take time out to relax, especially if there are lots of extra family or people around. Give yourself some quiet time, try a walk with the dog, listen to some music, enjoy a soothing bath, watch the tv or read a favourite book. For some intense relaxation try a guided meditation or mindfulness exercise.
Practice gratitude – it is very easy to get wrapped up in what you are missing out on, or how difficult things are. Instead think about what you do have, how lucky you are to be alive, rejoice in being clean and sober and being present in the moment.
The holiday season can be a joyous and wonderful time, and sober you get to enjoy everything that was previously missed, ruined by the haze of alcohol and drugs, or tainted by an almighty hangover.
Are you dreading the holidays? Is your festive season likely to be more about getting drunk than enjoying being with family and friends or participating in seasonal activities?
Here at our luxury residential rehab centre, located on the beautiful island of Ibiza, we can help. We treat a variety of mental health conditions including alcoholism, drug addiction (to illegal and prescription medicine) and process addictions (food disorders, gambling, and codependency), as well as other underlying and co-occurring mental health conditions such as trauma, anxiety, and depression.
For information on admissions contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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