Tips for Handling the Holidays in Recovery

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December 1, 2019

The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone, but maintaining your progress in recovery during these next few months can be particularly challenging. Whether it’s the social pressure of being around people who are consuming substances or dealing with loneliness and emotions that come from being away from (or with) family, everyone has their own particular struggles when the holiday season rolls around. Learning how to cope with these future stressors can make you feel more in control and prepared for what’s ahead.

Plan Wisely

Preparation for what’s to come is the best way to ease anxiety or stress about upcoming events during the holidays. Create a visual schedule on a calendar for yourself where you can see exactly when and where your commitments are so you can avoid last-minute rushing and stress. Staying organized can help keep you focused on fun rather than rushing.

Don’t Overload

Now that you’ve worked on easing back into life in recovery, being social is a major aspect of what you’ve been looking forward to regaining. While it’s flattering to be showered in holiday party invites, make sure you’re not over-committing. Socializing can be draining and holiday parties usually involve overindulgence of food, alcohol, and more. Make sure you are balancing your festivities with your recovery work.

Avoid Triggers

Holidays are a breeding ground for potential triggers, so it’s important to avoid them preemptively when you can. If you know a particular individual or setting will bring about negative memories or feelings, it’s okay to decline an invitation. If you know that being alone for the holidays may trigger you, reach out to your support group or plan activities and create new sober traditions with your friends from recovery groups and counseling.

Rehearse Replies

Prepare to be asked about your recovery or addiction at any given time while socializing over the holidays. It may be a relative that lacks social grace, or a loved one that genuinely wants to hear about your progress, but you don’t want to be caught off guard. Creating and rehearsing a mental list of responses in anticipation of these situations will help you ease the pressure off yourself to “perform” in social situations and instead live in the moment.

Escape Plan

Make sure you have a reliable mode of transportation when attending events. Avoid carpooling with people who are known to overindulge or stay later than you’d like. Relying on someone else to exit a social situation can quickly become stressful, especially if you feel you need to remove yourself from a situation where a trigger is lurking. Decide a time to leave a party, and be sure to have a safe way to get home quickly.

The holidays can be celebrated safely during recovery when thoughtful planning and precautions are in place. For those who do not have family or many friends to spend time with during the festivities and feel lonely or stressed, it’s crucial to reach out to groups for people who find themselves in a similar situation. There are many community events that people can attend to meet new people and safely enjoy the holiday season.