The Challenges of the Holidays
For some, the holidays are a carefree time spent celebrating and relaxing with loved ones. For those in early recovery, the pressures of seemingly endless parties and dinners present an obstacle to sustained sobriety. Catalysts for cravings can appear anywhere – reunions with old drinking buddies, difficult family members, busy travel schedules, financial stress, holiday gatherings fueled by alcohol or even the stress brought on by being back in your hometown. To aid you in preparing for these challenges, Cumberland Heights has compiled a list of tips that will help you to protect your sobriety this holiday season.
Make a Plan for the Holidays
Before leaving home or participating in any potentially triggering events, be sure that you have developed a plan. This may include asking a sponsor or sober friend to come with you or attending extra 12-Step meetings in preparation of the holidays. Remember that you can always limit your time in difficult situations; you can either set an expectation of leaving at a specific time, or text a friend to call you and request that you leave the party.
Over the holidays, it can be tempting to indulge in heavy meals and abandon your exercise regimen. As with all things, moderation is key. There is nothing wrong with setting aside some time for relaxation and rejuvenation during your time off, but be mindful of how changing these habits can affect your physical health and routine.
Make Self-Care a Priority
Be sure to take some time for yourself this holiday season. Get a good night’s rest, eat well and find some quiet time each day to meditate or reflect on your emotions. You may be surprised by small, free activities with restorative properties:
- taking a bath
- making a phone call to a sober friend
- curling up with a good book
- watching silly videos online
- ice skating
- asking for help with chores
- cooking a new recipe
- decluttering your closets or drawers
Find the “Wise Mind”
The holidays can be an emotional time of year. For some, unpleasant childhood experiences or past memories from active addiction can be particularly salient during this time. This flood of feelings can be difficult to handle in early recovery. Practice a technique straight from the DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) manual: finding your wise mind.
This exercise creates a Venn diagram of possible views: your emotion mind (knee-jerk feelings or perceptions) and your reasonable mind (rational, logical thoughts). The ideal intersection of these two schools of thought is wise mind – a state in which you recognize your emotions, but are not ruled by them. If you are triggered at a holiday gathering, first try to name your feelings before acting impulsively. You may be tempted to lash out or react passive-aggressively. Instead, ask yourself, “Is this wise mind?”
Perform Acts of Service
Giving your time to others can be a spiritually fulfilling practice. It provides purpose and reinforces your 12-step education, especially during the holidays. If you would like to volunteer from home, you can participate in activities like can drives, knitting hats for infants in the NICU and putting together hygiene kits for the local homeless shelters. If you would like to get out of the house, there are a few great places to volunteer:
- Homeless shelters
- Food pantries
- Local libraries
- Retirement homes
- Animal shelters
- Treatment centers
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help Over the Holidays
Remember, there are countless others who are staying sober this holiday season. Whether this is your first December in recovery or your tenth, it can be a challenging time of year for anyone. If you find yourself struggling, be sure to reach out for help. This can take the form of calling your sponsor or checking yourself into a treatment center when things become overwhelming.
At Cumberland Heights, we provide residential and outpatient support to those struggling with addiction. Call our staff at 800-646-9998, 24/7. We are standing by to support you.