Have you heard? We’re coming up on the most wonderful time of the year for a holiday or two.
Or at least that is what a whole lot of people (and, frankly, a whole lot of businesses) would have you believe. From Thanksgiving through Christmas (or other celebrations in December including Kwanzaa and Hanukkah) right on through New Year’s Eve and Day, we are encouraged to (or even assumed to) feel unbounded joy.
But many people decidedly do not feel unbounded joy throughout the holiday season. For many, the season arrives with many more challenges than joys. That can often be true for people in recovery from a substance use disorder who may find themselves struggling to stay sober amid the hubbub of activity around the holidays. They may face difficult conversations with family, gatherings and parties awash in alcohol, or a collection of negative memories or regrets related to the holidays that could fill Santa’s sack. Heck, even the overabundance of sugar on offer this time of year can threaten a person’s sobriety.
All of that means that if you are a person in recovery, you may be dreading the holidays rather than looking forward to them. You might even be convinced that the holidays are the opposite of the most wonderful time of the year.
Happily, however, there are some things you can do to help make the holidays easier to navigate. Some of those things may require a bit of preplanning and a bit of resolve, but you can think of those things as presents you give yourself in order to protect your hard-won sobriety.
Let’s take a look at a few seasonal strategies that might make the holidays merrier and brighter.
Holiday Conversations: Decide What You Will Say About Your Recovery
Big family gatherings over the holidays can lead to difficult conversations about any number of topics. It is possible that some of your relatives will want to have a conversation about your sobriety—and you will want to be prepared for that possibility.
Being prepared includes deciding in advance how much of your recovery story you wish to share and ideas for how you might redirect a conversation that might be making you uncomfortable (“Gee, Uncle Dave, enough about me. Tell me about your most recent big fishing trip.”). This sense of preparedness can be helpful if you have relatives who are likely to want to talk about your recovery in terms of faith or willpower or what have you.
Remember: Your recovery story is yours. You get to decide how much, if anything, you share over the holidays. In some cases, that might mean stepping away from a conversation, and that is perfectly okay.
Holiday Parties: Have a Strategy for Dealing with All the Alcohol on Offer
From office parties to family get-togethers to celebrations with friends, there is often plenty of alcohol flowing around the holidays. If you are going to attend these sorts of gatherings, you should have a plan. For example, you may find it useful to hold a non-alcoholic beverage of your choice so that you don’t have to deal with a constant barrage of people offering your drinks.
Another perfectly reasonable approach would be to skip parties you know are going to be particularly raucous at which people are likely to drink to excess. Avoiding those situations is a great way to ensure you are not unduly uncomfortable or tempted. If obligations of one kind or another make it seem impossible to skip a social occasion, you might choose to make a brief appearance early in the gathering and then discreetly head out.
Holiday Regrets: Hold the Ghosts of Holidays Past at Bay
Many people feel sad around the holidays due to past events they associate with this time of year. For a person in recovery, spending too much time ruminating about the past can be a dangerous pursuit.
Giving yourself the present of staying present is a good strategy to keep the past from intruding to the point that it threatens your sobriety. Mindfulness practice, yoga, journaling, and other practices can help you stay focused on the present moment—and that protects your sobriety while potentially making the holidays a lot more pleasant.
Holiday Treats: Moderate Your Sugar Intake During the Holidays
There are so many sugary treats to eat during the holiday season, and many of us have trouble resisting them. If you are in recovery, however, you will want to moderate your sugar intake. That’s because sugar can provide your brain with a mini version of the feelings it used to get from drug use. The more sugar you eat, the more likely those feelings will lead to cravings for drugs or alcohol.
You don’t have to abstain completely from sugar over the holidays. Just be aware of how much sugar you might be consuming and make purposeful decisions to moderate that amount.
Give Yourself the Gift of Sobriety
If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, the holiday season is unlikely to be a time of joy. At Wooded Glen Recovery Center in Indiana, we are ready to help you regain and maintain your sobriety. Getting your life back is the best gift you can give yourself—no matter the time of year.