Regarding your recovery, you have likely come to understand that it is a life-long effort. You also understand that recovery offers freedom, unlike any other, when managed in a consistent and motivated fashion. You are operating to your fullest potential – you are comfortable with who you are and are not defined by your addiction. However, you also understand that at times in your recovery, difficult challenges arise. Sometimes these challenges are unforeseen, and sometimes you anticipate them. If these challenges are not adequately managed, you know that your recovery may be at stake.
Among one of the most stressful, anticipated times of the year is the holiday season. This is a time that calls for a family gathering, sharing gifts, and spreading joy. You may view the holidays as a financial burden that involves socially stressful situations and the risk of frustration, isolation, and even relapse. Understand that this overwhelming feeling is not uncommon to have around the holidays. Before you succumb to these pressure-filled situations, try to recognize where the stress can manifest and how to manage it.
The holidays may leave you feeling stressed, depressed, angry, and alone. These feelings may result from focusing on potential problems resulting from seeing family and friends. It is crucial that if you know the holidays bring you stress, you never think that you can somehow “wing it.” This year, have a plan and practice carrying it out. If you understand that certain family members will ask you uncomfortable questions or bring up triggering events, practice your reactions and answers. Remember, you are also not obligated to answer all questions. You might ask a friend to help you test out different scenarios and solutions to see how you react and feel. This can help prepare your body and brain’s natural stress responses.
It is okay to say “no” to invites because such interactions trigger you to feel negative. It is okay to decline politely. You are responsible for your health and your sobriety, and sometimes that means missing an occasion. If you suspect that you will hurt a family or friend, be honest with them from the start. You can let them know the risks to your health if you interact with certain people in specific settings. Your loved ones will likely understand.
Sometimes, just reading the word relapse can trigger negative emotions. Recognizing that relapse is a real threat can help you find ways to manage stress and triggers. However, sometimes mistakes happen. If you do relapse, understand that the best response is taking action.
The holidays can wear you out and make you feel exhausted. It can also cause you to step outside of your comfort zone and overreach your capabilities. Understanding the holidays’ challenges can help you see where negative emotions will occur and allow you not to overreact.
If a relapse occurs, focus on why it happened and how to move forward. Contact your sponsor or therapist immediately. Get back to putting yourself first and attending recovery meetings. Always address the incident; don’t feel guilty or ashamed – focus on the steps to get back to your health and wellbeing.
Assembling a recovery kit can have significant benefits to your journey – not just for the holidays. A good recovery kit will help you manage your sobriety by reminding you that you are in control and responsible for your actions, nobody else.
The first key element to creating an excellent recovery kit is knowing your triggers. Sit with your thoughts and write down the triggers and warning signs you worry about encountering this holiday season. Be honest when you practice this. The more open you are in this process, the more complete your kit will be. Try to determine when you feel angry, sad, tired, lonely, hungry, and what happens to make you feel this way. Knowing the who, what, and why will ultimately reveal the underlying trigger.
Look at the Risks
If you are in early recovery, high-risk situations should be avoided. If you are meeting in-person for the holidays, drive yourself, or talk with your driver beforehand to help them understand the risks of using or drinking. You might also utilize the unique circumstances and challenges presented by the pandemic to create a low-risk and enjoyable holiday. Sometimes going all virtual is not the worst or most limited way. By bringing your presence virtually, you can control your environment to be free of any distractions or temptations and focus on talking with friends and family without worrying about somebody pressuring you to have a drink or drug.
It might seem easier to lay low and distance yourself from everybody until the holiday’s blow over, but what about the long winter that follows? Is removing yourself from the people who care going to help you? You should remain engaged in social settings where you feel comfortable. This connection may help you not to feel alone. You are not the only one who feels the way you do, and others in your support group may share similar stresses. The holidays steal time away from everybody. Set up meetings and interactions ahead of time to ensure that you will have time with your support and hold yourself accountable to attend.
People are typically their most vulnerable during the holidays. After a year shaped by the pandemic, more sacrifice and heartache might surround the holiday season. However, the holiday season could also offer you an excellent opportunity to connect and celebrate friendships, family, and health. If you begin to experience negative thoughts and behavior and are even isolating yourself from loved ones, it is time to seek immediate help. At True Recovery, we offer help and support for those and their loved ones struggling with mental health disorders and substance use disorder. We help to unite people through support communities, so they never have to experience recovery alone. We also strive to meet each individual’s needs to determine if they require conventional, alternative, or both kinds of care. Amid the current pandemic, we also offer Telehealth services that ensure your needs are always met. Remember, never wait; seek help today. To find out more, call us today at (866) 399-6528.