Managing Recovery During The Holidays

Do you dread the holidays because of spending time with family and participating in traditions that bring 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 relapse this time of year.

Getting through the holidays is important but do you know about the crash that often happens afterwards?

It's 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.

Reasons for the crash

  • There may be unresolved grief, sadness and loss that get triggered by the season.
  • You may feel an emptiness or a desire to reward yourself which triggers a slip. 
  • 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 may feel left out - like you deserve to join in because you've been sober for a specific 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 what's happening emotionally, you can experience what's called an emotional hangover. You feel emotionally drained, and off balance and don't know why. This happens after focusing on getting through a particular event sober rather than on one day at a time. 

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

Figuring 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 it back to when you the feeling first started and connect it to what's happening now or in some cases the past.

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 the bumpy road of recovery.

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.

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