The holidays are upon us! Can you believe it? This year seems to have flown by extra fast! As a recovering person, this time of year can stir up extra feelings of anxiety and/or a heightened sense of “danger” – as in there seems to be alcohol EVERYWHERE! Ughhh!
So how does a recovering person stay focused on sobriety when everywhere they turn society is encouraging them to “drink and be merry”?
Never fear! I’ve put together a list of recovery tips that have helped me get through the holidays over the years!
1. Stick to a structured schedule – Plan your days ahead of time, so that you don’t feel the added stress of trying to suddenly decide where to go, when to go and who to go with? Don’t forget to pencil in a little “Me Time” too! Self-care tends to take a backseat during the holidays, so be sure to keep it at the top of your list this year. It is important, and the most precious gift you can give yourself!
2. Surround yourself with supportive people – when attending holiday parties where there will be all sorts of adult festivities, be sure to surround yourself with people who support your recovery. Sadly, I’ve found that some adults resort to peer pressure just as easily as teenagers do! Family members may not always understand addiction, or how hard we have to work at our recovery.
Be prepared. Rehearse your responses if you think it will help! Or just walk away. You don’t have to explain your recovery to anyone, just be proud of yourself for doing it!
3. Always have an exit strategy – I always bring my own car to holiday parties. This is because I want to be able to leave when I am ready, especially if I am feeling uncomfortable. Try to look up meetings nearby so that if you find yourself falling into a recovery funk, you can quickly find some supportive hugs to get you through the day! Believe it or not, the holidays host some of the best 12 step/recovery focused meetings of the year!
4. Use a 5 buddy system – Have a minimum of 5 recovery friends who know what your plans are for the day. You can even schedule check-in calls throughout the day! Sometimes, a little extra accountability, and a familiar voice, can save us from a dreaded relapse.
5. Set Boundaries – Dun Dun Duuuunn! Listen, setting boundaries does not have to be so scary! It’s OK to say no! Seriously! Sometimes, it is even necessary. Your recovery must remain #1 – that means it comes before parties, and presents, and delicious turkey dinners! If you feel that family will not be supportive of your recovery efforts, or you just have an icky feeling in your belly when you think of attending an event, skip it! Protect your recovery! As you continue to stay sober, your family and friends will begin to better understand the choices you make, and will surely respect your decisions.
6. Volunteer – Nothing helps cure the holidays blues like being of service to your community! You can be of service in your recovery community by taking calls, offering to drive members to meetings, or hosting a recovery holiday party of your own! Some of my favorite memories in recovery are of sober parties! The best part is, you will wake up the next morning hangover free and remember it all!
You can also be of service in your community by offering your time to local homeless shelters, hospitals and food pantries. Not only does it provide a healthy dose of humility, but it also brings smiles to the faces of those who may not be blessed with a family to spend the holidays with.
7. Get enough rest – If you are like me, you get a little bit cranky when you are sleepy! I tend to have my strongest cravings (yes, I still get them!) and sharpest mouth when I am tired. Be sure to get to bed on time (this might even be a good exit strategy!) and drink lots of water!
8. Give thanks for your sobriety – Whether you say it out loud, or a silent prayer of gratitude before dinner, take a moment each day to give thanks for your sobriety. Spend some time reflecting on what a blessing it is to be able to participate in your life today, and to be present with your family and friends.
9. Toast with water – Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you HAVE to toast with champagne! Whoever came up with that is a dang liar! Toast with whatever non-alcoholic beverage you want to toast with! Personally, I toast with water every year, and always appreciate the significance of seeing my glass raised amidst all of the wine glasses. I think to myself, “Good job, Vanessa! Look at you, still recovering your ass off! You go girl!”
Lastly, and you may hate me for this one….
10. Don’t overindulge on sweets or caffeine – For many of us in recovery, sugar and caffeine have been known to induce cravings – they also tend to be staples in early recovery. We share candy in support groups, and offer coffee at our meetings. You may be quick to ask for your toasty, reliable cup of Joe! Try to limit yourself to one piece of pie (ok, maybe 2!) and a cup of coffee (OK! OK! Maybe 2!) after dinner! Yes, it’s a good thing you have chosen to replace Jell-O shots with espresso shots, but let’s not get carried away! Too many jitters can send your cravings, and your anxiety, into overdrive.
Bonus Tip – This one is my favorite! After you successfully make it through the holiday gathering, return home and prepare to lay your head down on your pillow, close your eyes and think of 5 things you did throughout the day that you are proud of. If you want to take it an extra step, text them to another recovering friend and ask that they text you back with their 5 things! Share your recovery with those who help you stay healthy each and every day! Carry the message and spread the love.
I hope some of these tips are helpful! If you would like to add your own tips in the comments, I would love to hear them!
Enjoy the holidays everyone!