Managing Recovery During The Holidays

Do you dread the holidays because it brings back painful memories? Does being around family and friends who still drink make you wanna use?

Managing stress effectively during the holidays can make or break your recovery, because there are so many temptations this time of year. Getting through the holidays is important but do you know about the crash that often happens afterwards?

It happens when you're so focused on getting through the holidays sober - and you are successful - but afterwards you wanna use. You might feel like you deserve a reward or that you can handle it because you could get through the holidays without using. That's what AA refers to as stinking thinking. Assuming that you can handle it alone is the hallmark of denial.

Reasons for the Crash

  • There may be unresolved grief, sadness and loss triggered by the season.
  • You may feel an emptiness or a desire to reward yourself. 
  • If you stuff feelings, you'll notice they return with a vengeance after the holidays.
  • Socializing with family and friends who still drink and use is stressful. You think you deserve to join in because you've been sober for X amount of time.
  • You tell yourself maybe now you can handle it. After all, it's been X number of days/ weeks/months, right? 

Watch it! That's the disease trying to get you!

If your focus is on surviving the holidays more than experiencing them, you may end up having what's called an emotional hangover. You get through the holidays but it's tough. You feel emotionally drained, and off balance but don't know why. This happens after you hyper-focus your energy on getting through a particular event sober rather than living one day at a time. 

Tip for managing sobriety during the holidays

The irony, is that you succeed in staying sober but a few days (or minutes) later the desire to use again comes back full force! 

Figure It Out

Something starts to feel off and you can't quite connect it to anything. You may feel disconnected, or more emotional than usual without reason. Pay attention! Trace the feeling back to when it first started and connect it to what's happening now.  

Doing some journal writing can help you connect the dots. Write whatever is bothering you and don't censor yourself. Let it come out. This often  gets to the root of a problem and eventually a solution.

Tips to Avoid Relapse

  • Pay attention to HALT ~ don't get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
  • Plan ahead to handle potential problems.
  • Keep meetings a priority.
  • Do service that keeps you showing up.
  • Use online and phone meetings as alternatives.
  • Listen to recovery podcasts/read literature.
  • Stay connected to avoid isolation.
  • Write out situations that trigger relapse behaviors.

Planning ahead makes a huge difference around the holidays. Being aware of the emotional hangover can help turn a potential relapse into a relatively minor bump. It's just a part of learning how to handle the stress of the holidays sober.

You'll learn from every mistake and every regret. That's just part of being human. Don't beat yourself up. If you fall, you'll be stronger in the end if you're open to learning the lesson it's trying to teach you.

Want more tips? Sign up for my FREE webinar on How to De-stress and Handle Holiday Challenges.

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