For some, the holidays evoke a sense of joy and togetherness, a time for family members to celebrate each other and enjoy coveted traditions. For many others, the holidays signify stress and tension. There’s a sense of dread and discomfort around having to spend time with all those people.
Regardless, the holidays are notably a time of indulgence, a long stretch of gluttony and greed- in the shopping, food, and alcohol- with the archaic notion that we’ll all collectively “start over again” come January 1st.
It’s a twisted fallacy, but it’s become a societal cliche. That said, surviving the holidays can be rough for anyone. For those in recovery, however, the survival requires effort and discipline.
Having A Plan
Whether it’s setting boundaries with the cousin who drinks too much every Thanksgiving or choosing to duck out of a Christmas Eve dinner early, it’s essential to identify how you will manage awkward or distressing situations during the festivities.
Having a plan is especially important if you are early in recovery. For example, people may not know that you are sober, and they may unknowingly offer you a drink. Similarly, people may apologize or act defensively over their drinking because they feel guilty partaking in front of you.
Remember that it’s normal to get triggered. It’s normal to experience cravings and feel alone or uncomfortable or humiliated at these events. The best advice is to avoid going into such situations unprepared. In other words, aim to expect the unexpected.
Practice the dialogue or the actions you will take if someone offers you a drink or you find yourself becoming triggered.
Create boundaries for yourself and stick with them. Even if it means leaving the event early. Even if it means not showing up at all. You owe it to yourself (and your loved ones) to put your sobriety first.
During this time, it’s essential that you practice self-care. Continue exercising regularly. Eat a well-rounded diet. Get plenty of sleep. If you attend therapy or 12-step meetings or take medication (or all of the above), stay active in your support.
Consider how you can treat yourself in this holiday season without excess indulgence. Maybe it’s gifting yourself that new yoga class you’ve been eyeing. Maybe it’s giving back and volunteering.
Consider New Traditions
The holidays can be whatever you want or make them to be. Even if you’ve always celebrated in a particular way, there’s no reason you can’t change it up this year to reflect your growth.
Consider grabbing a group of friends and starting your own sober Friendsgiving. Host a white elephant party for your family and have everyone bring their favorite childhood snacks. Bundle up and spend New Year’s Day at the beach with a barbecue- no matter the temperature outside.
The options for creating and enjoying new traditions are endless. Get creative and have fun with it.
Find Support In Those Who Understand
No matter where you are in your recovery, having accountability can keep you feeling safe and supported during rough times. Even though we may love our families, they may not be the same people who can responsibly hold us accountable when it comes to recovery.
Whether it’s having professional support or a circle of friends who understand your struggles, you need people who can be empathic and compassionate without enabling poor behaviors. You need people who can talk you off the ledge when you want to jump.
The holidays will pass. The stress will pass. Surround yourself with people who can be emotionally there for you- no matter what day or time of year it is.