The holidays can be stressful for anyone, especially those working through addiction recovery.
Depending on if you’ve just enrolled in a treatment plan or are several months into rehab, you’ll experience different kinds of trials during the holidays, each of which will be challenging in its own way.
Many people in recovery fear relapsing during the holidays due to old wounds that can be opened, or the stress that can come with navigating triggers and temptations at gatherings.
That’s why in this article, we’re going to discuss the top five practices that will help you maintain your sobriety during the holiday season, from Thanksgiving all the way through New Year’s Day.
What are addiction triggers?
Addiction triggers are anything that’s going to tempt the person in recovery to relapse. A trigger can be an unexpected event, an emotion, a glimpse of someone from your past, or a food craving — many triggers are unknown until you experience them for the first time.
How to avoid triggers
Know that while it’s important to avoid triggers, it’s equally as important to promote your sobriety. In other words, rather than focusing all of your energy on avoiding relapsing, spare some of that energy on promoting your sobriety and find ways to have fun with it.
Remember your road to recovery is more than just leading a better life, it’s about living. Even if you’re in survival mode right now, you won’t always be; you’re well on your way to thriving.
1. Manage your stress
The simplest (but arguably most important) practice is to prioritize managing your stress. Many people claim to be actively managing their stress when they’re really only aware of it. Self-awareness is a powerful practice, one that is good to be at the center of our habits, but those who are new to or unfamiliar with self-awareness often mistake awareness for action.
Recognizing when you shift into being stressed is the first step. Taking a moment to pause and identify the source of the stress is the second step. The third step is where you relieve the stress through specific practices (journaling, breathwork, grounding, meditation, exercise).
2. Have pre-planned responses
Whether you’ll be attending gatherings where everybody knows about your prior addiction or only a few do, have several pre-planned responses for declining drinks. This is an effective way of preventing you from indulging in the moment as a result of not knowing what to say.
You can keep it short and simple by simply saying “I’m not drinking tonight.” You can also be sure to have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand so that if someone offers you an alcoholic beverage, you can just hold up the drink you already have. If someone asks if they can get you a drink, you can respond with humor or positively, such as by saying you’d like a drink but then specifying a non-alcoholic one.
3. Bring a sober friend
When in doubt, ask a friend or family member to be your sober buddy for the day (or evening, depending on the type of gathering). Having someone there to reject drinks alongside you can be more empowering than you might think.
If you’re hesitant to ask for help because you don’t want to inconvenience or burden your loved one, turn the tables around. Ask yourself, if your loved one were to be in your shoes, would you want them to ask you for help? And would you give it freely and with love? If so, then just ask.
4. Attend sober gatherings
Navigating holiday triggers and substance abuse temptations is a challenge that, most likely, few of your family members and friends will understand. As much as they love you, love is not enough to prevent a relapse.
Attending sober gatherings can be incredibly uplifting and therapeutic as you surround yourself with people who not only understand what you’re going through but are on a similar journey.
5. Seek professional help
One of the best ways to prevent a relapse from happening is to be proactive. Rather than waiting to experience a setback before practicing mental health care, joining a support group or getting a therapist, do those things beforehand.
You’re likely already undergoing one or several of those activities right now as you’re actively working through recovery, but all of them can be continued once your treatment plan is completed.
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