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 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 after the holidays?
When you're so focused on getting through the holidays sober - and you are successful - you think that you’re safe. You’ve survived the holidays but once the celebrations are over you wanna use. You think you can handle it because you could got through the holidays without using. That's what AA refers to as stinking thinking. Assuming that you can do recovery 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 maybe you can handle it. After all, it's been X number of days/ weeks/months, right?
Watch it! That's the disease trying to drag you back into the gutter!
If your focus is on surviving the holidays more than experiencing them, you may end up having what's called an emotional hangover. You can get through the holidays but it's tough.
You feel emotionally “off balance” but don't know why. This happens because it takes a lot of energy to be hyper-focused on getting through a particular event sober rather than living one day at a time.
The irony, is that you have succeeded in staying sober but a few days (or minutes) later the desire to use again comes back full force!
Feeling Off Balance
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 to that feeling! Trace those emotions 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.