1.) Try to spend the holidays with people who are okay with remaining abstinent.
The first and foremost tip for the holiday season in recovery is to protect yourself at all costs. Try and spend the holidays around people who are either also in recovery or simply not drinking. Not all of us have this luxury, however early recovery calls for a change in how we do things. If you can, spend most of your time with people who are not under the influence.
2.) When visiting family or friends, stay vigilant and raise awareness.
Many of us do have family members who do drink, and so a good idea when visiting home is to make everyone aware that you are not drinking and that is final. It allows others to be aware of you and keep you accountable, but it also relieves the pressure that you may have in your mind causing you to act out on behaviors that could follow a trigger.
3.) Have your sponsor, or a friend, on speed-dial.
The minute you begin to feel something or someone to be slightly triggering, call someone you trust! Oftentimes this is our sponsor, but it can also simply be a friend in recovery who you feel comfortable speaking to. Who knows, maybe they will need to speak to you as much as you to them!
4.) Spend your night around someone who supports you.
Ranging from your mom to your brother to a cousin or a family friend, spend your night or your extended holidays around someone who supports you in your recovery. The best kind of people to spend the holiday season with are the ones that cheer you on no matter what the situation. The holiday season isn’t about gritting your teeth and bearing the full weight of scrutiny. Remember that.
5.) If the situation is dire, be brief.
If you have knowledge that your family or the people you’re spending the holidays with are going to be drinking to excess and you are not okay with it, drop by for a brief visit with plans in mind to spend it elsewhere as well. Share that you are very busy and balancing your time this holiday season to see everyone you can, but also tell the truth by making real plans with other people who do support your recovery in an environment you can stay clean. The last thing you want to do is lie to them about where you’re going!
6.) Stay busy, help out, don’t isolate, and become involved.
Complacency and boredom are two things that feed addictive behaviors the right kind of food to flourish. Yes, the holidays are about relaxing and enjoying each other’s company, but if you don’t become involved in your family’s activities, how are you supposed to avoid these negative feelings? Participate in conversations and family outings if there are some. Be the one taking the pictures, but also be IN the pictures! Become invested in your loved ones and they will do the same for you. This keeps you focused, busy, and stops your mind from wandering off into the corner to be alone.
7.) Be honest about how you feel, but don’t expect them to change for you.
Our family and friends have spent a long time battling our addiction and the last thing they need is for you, the recovering addict, to dictate how they should behave around the holidays. To ask them to not drink may be an option, but realistically it isn’t something anyone would suggest to ask your family to do. After all, why should they once again adapt for you because you’re finally sober again? If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, tell them in an understanding way before, during, or after the occasion. Don’t leave it too late and make a mess of things either with your mood or your behavior. Resentments are built upon staying quiet at the worst of times.
8.) Hit a meeting on the days you normally wouldn’t.
Many of us disregard meetings around the holidays because we think the doors will be closed for the few days we normally spend at home. Wrong! Around this time of the year there are even MORE meetings than there normally would be just because of the stress even normal people incur without the added pressure of temptation. Find one in your community using Google or a meeting list. The Vancouver Recovery Club, for example, has 24 hour meetings on the holidays.
9.) Write a plan out.
If you are going away or even just staying at home, write out a plan of exactly what you’re doing on the days you’re spending in a higher-than-normal-risk environment. Schedule your meetings, your destinations, and if you have to, keep it hour-to-hour in regards to what you’ll be doing to lower any amount of surprises that can throw us off emotionally or mentally. Addicts hate change, so create a plan and stick to it.
10.) Let people know where you are.
Everyone in recovery has an idea, generally, as to what other people in recovery are up to because we live our lives in transparency. Why should the holidays be any different? Let someone like your sponsor or close friends know where you’re going, what time you’ll be back, and keep them updated while you’re away from them. Texts, phone calls, or Snapchats are a good way to quickly correspond with your support group.
11.) If you don’t have any holiday plans, make some.
The majority of North Americans in our communities do something special during the holiday season. If you have no plans because of distance from family or friends, spend it with someone who can include you in theirs. There are ALWAYS people inviting others to come over for dinner, for the day, or even overnight to spend the holidays with their family members. Two is better than one, and five is better than four. The last thing you want to do is spend your holiday season alone as this is a recipe for self-sabotaging your own recovery. Don’t feel like spending it with someone else’s family? Volunteer. Find a local charity or institution and get involved.
12.) Most importantly after all is said and done, enjoy yourself!
The holiday season is typically a time where people want to enjoy themselves. Have fun when you’re with your family. If an environment is negative and people are in negative moods, be the change in that room that you weren’t before in your addiction. Take pride in the fact that you are somewhere you may or may not have been before, but mostly because you’re somewhere inherently crucial to your own recovery right now – with people who care about you and love you. Unconditional optimism costs nothing. Enjoy yourself this holiday season and take care of those around you!
From all of us at Together We Can, we wish you a sober, safe, and happy holidays with friends, family, and loved ones!