The holidays can be a stressful time for the average person, but they can be especially challenging to those in recovery. The winter holidays are meant to be a joyous occasion celebrated with friends and family. By practicing our regular daily recovery habits and adding a few additional prevention strategies, we will not only ensure that we maintain our recovery but that we will also truly enjoy our holidays in ways we may have not on the past. Here are a few time-tested suggestions to support your recovery throughout the season.
12 suggestions to successfully managing your recovery around the holidays:
1. Practice H.A.L.T. – The hustle of the holidays can throw us off balance. We need to stay vigilant in ensuring, as the acronym presents, we do not get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.
2. When invited to a holiday gathering that may have alcohol as part of the celebration, always create an exit plan PRIOR to attending and use it of you become uncomfortable. For instance, bring your own car to the event or plan to check in with a friend by phone.
3. Speaking of events, maintaining recovery is much easier at gatherings when you can bring a friend, especially someone else in recovery who understands your situation and can give you immediate support.
4. Also at events, consider bringing your own alcohol-free beverages and don’t leave your beverages unattended, ensuring they remain that way.
5. Trust your gut feelings. If you have a bad feeling about an event, there may be a reason that’s valid. Talk the decision through with other people in recovery and know that you have the right to honor your feelings and decline an invitation at any time. This right even applies to family gatherings.
6. Speaking of family gatherings, holidays parties are not the time to do your 9th step. Dropping an emotional bombshell at holiday event is not a good way to start out the year for anyone.
7. Bring new meaning to your holiday. It can be something meaningful or just pure fun, start a new holiday tradition and make it yours to share.
8. Practice the 12th step, not only in meetings, but also in your community. Volunteering during the holidays is especially meaningful. Giving back to others who are less fortunate can often make us even more aware of the gifts that we have received.
9. Speaking of gifts, make a daily commitment to reflect with gratitude on all of the spiritual gifts you have received from others, and double the gift by reaching out to them and saying thank you.
10. Self-help groups often hold special meetings and event around the holidays. Make use of them to stay grounded and connect with others.
11. Speaking of connection, isolation and holidays are a dangerous combination. Reach out often.
12. Finally, consider lightening up! Humor can be a tool that helps us keep it simple and not take things too personally.
May this season and the coming year, bring you the gifts of gratitude, peace, hope, and joy.
Joi Honer BA, CAC, CADC.
National Alumni Director
Pinnacle Treatment Centers.