Tips for Surviving the Holidays When You’re in Recovery
Guest Post by Ryan Rosen
The holidays are particularly difficult for people in addiction recovery. This time of year can dredge up sad memories, cause financial or travel-related stress, and subject you to uncomfortable social situations. At the same time, alcohol is present at almost all work parties and family gatherings, which can make abstinence all the more difficult to maintain. Thankfully, there are several things you can do to prepare yourself and enjoy a sober holiday season.
Work with a Therapist
During the holidays, consider working with a therapist. Your therapist can help you come up with a plan to stay sober and offer coping tools to reduce stress and manage triggering situations. If you do relapse during the holidays, make sure you know where to go for recovery assistance. Rehab Solution recommends looking for rehab centers near home so you can stay close to your recovery network. Many centers employ qualified professionals, including medical experts and behavioral therapists, to help you through the many facets of addiction recovery. Take some time to find a center that will provide the specialized assistance you need.
Stay Connected to Your Support Network
A reliable and supportive social network is important for people in addiction recovery. If you’re traveling out of town for the holidays, you may be leaving your support network behind. Your cell phone can be an invaluable tool for staying connected to the people you rely on for support. Calling or texting someone about stressful holiday events can keep you motivated and help you stay accountable. You can also use your phone to access useful relaxation apps like SmilingMind and Aura, or fitness apps like MyFitnessPal and Freeletics Bodyweight, that can help you maintain your mental and physical health while you’re on the go.
If you anticipate using your phone more often over the holidays, make sure your data plan has you covered so you’ll always have access to your support network whenever you need it. If your plan could use an upgrade, check out unlimited plans from providers like Verizon to avoid those nasty overage charges.
Learn to Say No
Avoiding addiction relapse triggers can be more difficult during the holidays. Take steps to steer clear of toxic people and learn how to say no to events that can be triggering. Care.com recommends carving out more time than usual for self-care if you’re spending the holidays around dysfunctional family members.
You shouldn’t feel obligated to go to holiday parties or endure stressful family dinners if you know these events won’t be good for you. Learn how to say no to your friends and family. While it can feel uncomfortable at first, setting boundaries and holding true to them will give you more control over your recovery process. You may also want to rehearse some answers to prying questions, so you’re always ready to decline drink offers without feeling like you owe anyone an explanation. Have an escape plan in place so you can remove yourself from negative situations quickly. For example, try to bring your own car to events so you can leave if you start to feel uncomfortable.
Avoid Financial Stress
Financial stress can be another serious relapse trigger, so take steps to reduce spending this holiday season. Money Crashers recommends creating a holiday budget and tracking your spending so you can maintain control over your day-to-day expenses. To accommodate extra spending during the holidays, try cutting back on non-essentials—like your morning latte—until you get some room back in your budget.
Don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money on gifts either. Set a budget for each person or make a suggestion to your friends and family to reduce holiday gifting this year. You could even try making your own gifts, like a tin of cookies or personalized tree decorations. This is a great way to discover new hobbies and keep yourself busy over the holidays!
Don’t let the holidays interfere with your recovery. Reach out for extra support, have a plan in place to avoid toxic situations, and find ways to minimize holiday-related financial stress. If you’re concerned that the holidays will have an effect on your recovery progress, get a plan in place now so you’re well prepared to avoid those holiday stressors.
Ryan Rosen has six years of sobriety under his belt, and his goal now is to be an inspiration to others. He regularly shares his story and wellness practices at treatment centers, sobriety retreats, and other recovery events in his region. With RecoverySpark.org, he hopes to spread the word to many more.
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Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.