How to Navigate the Holidays in Addiction Recovery

substance abuse treatment centers in wilmington NCThe holidays were so much easier when you were a kid. All you had to do was tell Santa what you wanted and then wait for Christmas Eve to arrive. The next morning, if you were lucky, you had the toys you wanted. It was as simple as that.

Now that you’re an adult (and maybe even playing the role of Santa), there is much more involved. It all starts with Thanksgiving, which is supposed to be more low-key than Christmas. It’s usually not if you’re responsible for preparing food or hosting guests. After that food-filled day, you probably have to put up your Christmas decorations and start thinking about shopping for gifts, not to mention the holiday parties.

The last few weeks of the year can be stressful. If you’re a recovering addict, it can be even harder. But you don’t have to go into hiding during the holidays in order to avoid the stress and possibility of relapse triggers. You can learn to successfully navigate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve and come out on the other side stronger in your recovery.

Identify stressful situations beforehand and decide how you’re going to handle them. For example, if you know you’ll get stressed out trying to decorate the house, and you usually like to have a bottle of wine while you do it, hire someone else to do it for you. There’s probably a college student in your neighborhood who’d love the extra money.

If you plan to attend parties where there will be drinking, offer to be the designated driver so that you have a valid reason for not drinking. This works well if no one knows you’re in recovery. If they know you're driving, they won’t pressure you into having a drink to celebrate.

If most of your holiday events revolve around drinking, think of new things to do. Take the family to an ice skating rink, and then go out for hot chocolate. Volunteer to wrap presents at a charity that collects gifts for the needy. Go to a holiday play at a church or school.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. You don’t have to decorate every inch of the house. You don’t have to find the “perfect” gift for everyone you know and you don’t have to go to every event during the holiday season. If you know you will feel overwhelmed and want to turn to a drink or drugs to cope, mark it off your list.

Ask your mentor or members of your support group for additional contact during this time of year, they probably need it, too. See if you can have extra meetings, or see if your mentor is willing to call to check in on you.

The holidays are about taking the time to be thankful for what you have, and it’s a time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished in the past year.

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