It’s fall, and here come the holidays…
For many, it’s the season when families come together to enjoy a special meal, exchange gifts, play a few games and create lasting memories…That’s half the story at least. The holidays may also be accompanied by financial worries, family arguments, feelings of loneliness, and the constant presence of alcohol.
Statics have revealed that 50-90% of people will relapse after a period of sobriety. Because the holidays can be synonymous with stress and anxiety for so many, it is important that we have a sober plan to keep us from falling into this statistic.
Intentionally Avoiding Relapse
- The plan.
One of the most important aspects of your day-to-day recovery is making the conscious decision to remain sober every day and having a solid plan to reach that goal. Give yourself extra time each morning to wake up, gather your thoughts and decide on sobriety. Being aware and intentional with your goal makes sobriety more tangible.
Prayer, meditation and living in the present moment are also key tools for a successful plan. We can’t always avoid difficult situations, but knowing ahead of time where to turn when we feel fragile is vital.
- Be aware of risk.
Before attending any event, take the time to decide how much of a risk it is. For example, attending a lunch at a public place where alcohol is served may be low risk for you, while going to an evening holiday party held at a bar is probably high risk. During early recovery it is wise to only attend events that fall within your low risk category. If you absolutely must attend a high risk event it is a good practice to bring a sober friend who is aware of your recovery, arrive early, and leave early. Hanging around after guests have become intoxicated is never a good idea. The “I can handle it” mentality that we often adopt just puts us closer and closer to the fire. Why risk getting burned?
- BYOB (bring your own beverage).
Usually there is an alternative to alcohol at any gathering. However, you don’t want to put your sobriety in danger. So just to be safe, always bring your own beverage. Tip: Sparkling water is a great substitute for champagne during holiday toasts!
- Make yourself a priority.
Have you heard of the acronym HALT? This stands for hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Physical or emotional discomfort is often all it takes to trigger a relapse. Always make sure your needs are met in order to promote the success of your sobriety. Take care of yourself like you would a close friend, because you ARE your friend. If the holidays are a tough time, make an appointment with a therapist, talk to a mentor or sponsor, kick up your exercise routine, invite a sober friend over. There are so many ways to take good care of yourself.
- Control stress levels.
It is quite common for stress levels to rise during the holiday season. Don’t allow yourself to reach the point of turning to drugs or alcohol to numb the tension. Instead of trying to push yourself THROUGH a stressful or anxious moment, take a break. Give yourself time to quiet your mind, clear your head, regroup and then return to your day. This will help you avoid the breaking point.
- Rehearse your response.
Before arriving at any gathering be prepared for the scenario where you’ll have to politely decline the invitation to have a drink, a smoke, or other substances. Think about it… Have you openly shared the fact that you’re in recovery or are you being more discrete with your situation? Either way, come up with a comfortable means of turning down the offer to use alcohol or drugs. “No thanks” or “I’m good” work perfectly. Don’t think you need a long explanation.
- Deal with cravings in a productive manner.
Cravings are different for everyone. Some experience cravings once or twice a day. Others report more than ten. Sometimes the thoughts will last 5 minutes, others 20. Whatever your specific situation may be, learn to get past cravings. A few effective means for dealing with cravings include: Going for a run, moving to a quiet space, listening to music, practicing deep breathing, journaling, prayer, and calling a friend or sponsor.
- Take advantage of support groups.
If you know the holidays increase your risk for addiction relapse, make time to attend more support groups, therapy sessions, and talk with encouraging friends/counselors.
This is your life and you deserve sobriety.