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Surviving the holiday season while in recovery, here’s how

December 8, 2021

Did you know that most drug and alcohol-related deaths occur in December?

It’s so important not to let the rush of the holiday season and gatherings distract us from sobriety. 

For many, the holidays involve gathering with loved ones and might involve traditions where you drank alcohol or used drugs. Various aspects of the holiday season may cause triggers to arise that lead you back to old ways, like feeling isolated or the urge to use substances because it’s available. 

While the holiday season can harm your recovery at any length of sobriety, the first few years in recovery often prove to be the toughest to endure while adjusting to a healthier lifestyle. However, there are many ways to help shift your outlook to make your holiday season fun and enjoyable.

Start New Traditions 

Part of recovery is about redefining yourself by implementing new habits and practices that support sobriety. 

Would you go back to the places where you used to use? Why return to holiday traditions that do the same? Look at your life and who you are now. Look at the most important people you can trust, including family, friends, and peer support; these people are where you can start to look to build new traditions. 

Focus on participating in smaller gatherings with these people; you can even create new traditions together. Maybe you don’t like eating turkey or ham and instead want pizza, or instead of eggnog, you have chocolate milkshakes. Perhaps instead of a gift exchange, you play games or sing karaoke. 

The point is to have fun with the people who matter most to you and support your sobriety. This way, you’re sure to have a much happier holiday. 

Rethink Holiday Obligations

First things first, remember you are not obligated to attend ANYTHING.

Are you feeling burnt out from just thinking about all the people you might have to see or converse with this holiday season? Or how about all of the planning it will take to make yourself present and involved in holiday gatherings? 

More often than not, holiday disasters happen when you put yourself in a pressure-filled environment where you don’t feel comfortable. Before succumbing to pressure, ask yourself how this might affect your mental health and recovery? 

Understand that no matter how pressured you may feel, you are not obligated to participate in anything you don’t want to, especially if it puts you in a negative space. 

Instead, exercise your ability to say “no.” You might provide a brief explanation of why, but make sure others understand that you are saying “no.” Your health and recovery are too important to challenge with friends and family that might pressure you to drink or get involved in things that will leave you mentally and physically drained. 

Connect with support system prior to events

Suppose you ultimately decide to attend an annual holiday gathering. In that case, we encourage attending a 12-Step meeting, group therapy meetings, or meeting one-on-one with your counselor or therapist prior to the event to elevate your headspace and get into “focus” mode. 

At your initial meeting before an event, express your concerns, and state you will be attending after the event as well.

After holiday events, you may want to follow through and attend a meeting right after. This can help motivate you to resist impulses, hold you accountable, and give you something to focus on during the holiday event. 

If it’s impossible to set up meetings before and after, reach out to a peer from your support group or a trusted friend or family member to contact before and after the event to provide an update on mental health and sobriety.

Address Your Triggers

The holidays may present situations that cause triggers, like alcohol, drugs, unhealthy relationships, isolation, etc.

The holiday season also stirs feelings of remembering those we lost from years past or the broken relationships you no longer have. It’s important to note that such thoughts add to the holiday’s challenges and create negative thoughts, behaviors, and feelings of disconnect. 

Talking about these feelings with a loved one or a health specialist at True can help you cope and even offer ways to manage these triggers and avoid situations where they might be too overwhelming.

If you have already identified your substance abuse triggers, make a list, and determine if any of those triggers will be present at the gathering you plan to attend. If you can, run the list by the host to address whether or not those triggers will be present. 

About True

True provides a wide variety of essential resources for people struggling with mental health and addiction, tailored to address unique needs and goals. We offer a space where you can work with trained, caring professionals to overcome obstacles and achieve potential in every aspect of life. Call us at (844) 744-TRUE(8783).