The holidays can be extremely stressful when you’re recovering from an addiction. You may have to leave your safe, supportive environment to go home or to a relative’s home. Conflicts with old friends and family members may increase your stress levels. Holiday gatherings center around parties, food, alcohol, even drugs. You may feel sad, angry, depressed, or anxious just thinking about being in that kind of environment. These factors increase your risk of relapse.
It’s important to prepare for your trip home. Having a good plan can help you remain calm, relaxed, and happy, even during a stressful or painful time. You can take a few steps to help keep yourself and your sobriety safe this holiday season.
1. Bring Your Own Beverage
If you plan on attending holiday dinners, parties, or other gatherings, don’t worry about what your hosts will serve, bring your own beverage with you. Many holiday parties center around alcohol. Punches, wines, and other alcoholic drinks might appear on your holiday dinner table and you need to be prepared.
You won’t have to worry about pressure to imbibe, if you’ve brought your own drink of choice to the party. Sparkling non-alcoholic cider, fruit juices, and virgin eggnog are popular options. By having your own beverage on hand, you can avoid situations where you feel pressured to drink.
2. Diet and Exercise
Many triggers and stressors are due to low energy, hunger, and depression. A great way to combat these triggers is to stick to a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen. Winter is a season of indulgence and feasts, but make sure to balance your holiday dinners with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables during your other meals. Eat enough to keep you full and choose foods that are low in fat and sugar to boost your energy.
A quick jog around the block or a trip to your local gym can help boost your energy as well. In addition, these exercises provide a great opportunity to clear your head. If you’re in a high-stress environment, zoning out on the treadmill or taking a brisk walk can help you de-stress and naturally boost your endorphins.
3. Take Time for Self-Care
The hectic, fast-paced nature of the holidays can leave you with little time for yourself. If you don’t have time to perform the daily activities that make you happy, you will feel stressed, overwhelmed, and looking for an escape. Make sure to set aside a small chunk of time every day for self-care; you could take five minutes, 15 minutes, even an hour – it all depends on what you need.
Take yourself to a quiet space free of distractions. You can read your favorite book, write in a journal, meditate, listen to music, or take a hot bath. If you don’t want to stay inside, you can take a quick walk around the block or go out in nature somewhere you love. Make sure to take time for self-care regularly during your holiday travels.
You may be leaving a strong sober community that understands your recovery journey better than your family does. Part of your self-care should be making sure you stay connected with your sponsors and sober friends during the holiday season through social media, phone calls, emails, and texts. They could provide a source of support if you find yourself close to relapse.
4. Create an Action Plan
Let’s say you’re at a holiday dinner, party, or other gathering and start to feel uncomfortable; if you’ve rehearsed your action plan, it will be easier to use it. When you feel stressed, angry, sad, or pressured, use your plan to act in your best interest.
Will you quietly remove yourself to your room? Will you take a walk? Do you need to meditate or call your sponsor? Having your plan on hand before a problem arises will help you navigate stress safely and calmly.
At this time of year, many people use New Year’s resolutions to make drastic life changes, such as weight loss or quitting smoking. We know that most of these resolutions don’t work out. When everyone is making their resolutions, you may feel pressure to say that this year, you’ll kick your addiction for good.
Recovering from an addiction is a long-distance marathon, not a sprint. You don’t have to create a resolution related to your addiction if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. If you do, focus on small goals rather than your ultimate destination. Completing your rehab program or receiving your next sobriety coin are more realistic resolutions than pressuring yourself to kick a habit cold turkey.
5. Accept Your Mistakes
If you relapse during the holidays, remember that addiction recovery has ups and downs. Having one drink or using once does not make you a failure. One relapse isn’t enough reason for you to give up on your recovery.
Everyone risks falling back into old habits. If you find yourself using again, know that relapses happen to many people during recovery. Accept that you made a mistake and to use the moment to re-commit to your goal and move forward. Always make sure to seek help from an addiction counselor or treatment program after a relapse – your safety and sobriety are your top priorities.
Before leaving for the holidays, you can start by making a list of situations and feelings that trigger your addiction. The acronym HALT represents the most common triggers: hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness. If you find yourself wanting to relapse when any of these feelings arise, list your triggers and create small action plans to resolve them when they turn up. Rehearse your responses to your triggers. Your plan could include calling a trusted friend when you’re lonely, keeping snacks on hand to stave off hunger, paying attention to good sleep hygiene so you can get eight hours of sleep every night, and using breathing exercises to control your temper. Use the tools you learned in your recovery program to help you create your own solutions.
At Windmill Wellness Ranch, we want you to grow and progress toward recovery, despite the bumps in the road. We believe you deserve the highest quality of addiction recovery treatment. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and treatment options.