How to Handle the Holidays while in Recovery

The big holidays at the end of the year are supposed to fill us with joy. That is what all the movies and television specials and songs and worship services tell us, right?

But for many people, the holiday season is quite challenging. That might be true for any number of reasons ranging from struggling to process difficult memories related to the holidays all the way through a generally grinchy disposition. Among the many kinds of people who might find the holidays difficult are those who are in recovery from a substance use disorder. 

We have explored the challenges the holidays can present for those in recovery in a number of previous entries. In this entry, we provide a roundup of that early advice as our gift to you—and your sobriety.

What Do To When the Holiday Conversation Turns to You and Your Recovery

In a blog titled “Stay Merry and Bright—Even if Your Family Wants to Talk About Your Recovery,” we considered ways to manage difficult conversations that might arise over the holidays. Here’s an excerpt:

Even if you have chosen not to initiate conversations about your recovery, there is still a strong possibility that a relative—no doubt with the very best of intentions—will decide they need to give you some advice. Maybe this person has been on his or her own recovery journey. Or maybe they have been doing some research on the internet and want to share what they have learned.

Either way, you can treat that advice like a gift you don’t really care for. Smile politely and remember you don’t have to keep the gift. After all, you have an official treatment plan in place which has been created by a physician with expertise in substance use disorders and a full understanding of your specific situation. That treatment plan, of course, is your recovery guide—and no amount of advice from your family can change that.

Stay On Track With Your Sobriety Even During the Busy Holiday Season

In an entry titled “Here Come the Holidays. Are You and Your Recovery Ready?” we encouraged readers to set personal boundaries around the holidays to keep the recovery journey on track. We said in part:

The holidays sometimes seem to be a contest. Who can attend or host the most parties, bake the most cookies, attend the most religious services, wrap the most presents, and on and on. It can feel as though celebrating the holidays is your job.

But it’s not. To the extent that you have a “job” to do during the holidays, it is this: stay sober.

So pace yourself. Feel free to turn down invitations or to leave an event early. Don’t feel like you have to battle the crowds or spend lots of money in order to give thoughtful gifts. Don’t feel obligated to bake every kind of cookie your family has enjoyed (in fact, don’t feel obligated to bake cookies at all unless you enjoy it).

When you are in recovery, setting boundaries is important. And it doesn’t make you a Grinch if you set some firm boundaries during the holidays.

Too Many Sweet Holiday Treats Can Undermine Your Recovery

In the entry “Getting Through the Holiday with Your Sobriety Intact,” we considered, among other things, the ways in which sugar can mimic the high from drugs—making it a danger to your sobriety:

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.

Even More Holiday Hits For Maintaining Sobriety Even During the Busy Holiday Season

Eager to read more about how to handle the holidays while in recovery? Here some additional links:

Sobriety is the Best Gift You Can Give Yourself

Your holidays—indeed, your whole life—will be so much brighter if you regain your sobriety. At Wooded Glen Recovery Center in Indiana we can help you do just that. With a commitment to evidence-based, personalized care delivered with respect and empathy, we will help you get sober and provide the resources and support you need to stay sober. No matter the season, sobriety is a gift that keeps on giving.