Safeguarding Your Recovery Around The Holidays

How to manage your recovery around the holidays

The holidays can be a difficult time if you're in recovery. Even normal drinkers get into trouble since there are so many opportunities to over-indulge.

Stay Connected To Your Meetings!

12 step programs such as AA, and Al-Anon provide lots of support since the risk of relapse is high around the holidays. Alcoholics Anonymous helps those wanting to get or stay sober, and Al-Anon gives support to the families and friends.

It's free and available in most cities. There are also online and phone meetings. Marathon meetings are available 24 hours a day during a the holiday so you can stay connected.

These meetings provide a much needed safety net when dealing with family. The added pressure to drink is a bad combination. Unpleasant memories and reminders of loss makes the holidays extra challenging.

Prioritize Your Recovery & Pick Wisely  

Planning out the holidays is the first step. Just because you've always gone to Aunt Mary's for Thanksgiving doesn't mean you have to this year. Recovery is about choices. You may feel obligated to be with family and act like nothing has changed. But everything has! 

I'm not suggesting you avoid family events. It's more about learning how to recognize high risk situations and plan accordingly. Write a list of an the holiday events that trigger the desire to use. 

Decide what events you can handle and which ones are too overwhelming. Asking for guidance from your Higher Power and talking it over with your sponsor helps. Once you've made a plan, sandwich the holidays with meetings.

There will be times in your recovery when you can't go to meetings. You might have to work late or you get sick. Recovery podcasts can supplement - not replace meetings own a pinch. These podcasts can make you feel instantly contented to your program when you're starting to sink emotionally.

Check out Sobriety First and Stories of Recovery for a variety of recovery podcasts. There are several in iTunes too.

Manage Your Relapse Triggers

Knowing which situations trigger a relapse is important. If you have relapsed before, write out what was happening at the time that contributed to using. That way the slip serves as a valuable lesson.

Knowing what your triggers are ahead of time gives you a fighting start. Here are some common triggers:

  • Being with old friends that still drink and use
  • Going to any family or social event that focuses on drinking
  • Ignoring stress and difficult feelings 
  • Hiding or pretending you are not an addict
  • Old family hurts that aren't healed

The Power Of Sponsorship

Helping others is a vital part of recovering from addiction. It's a "we" program for a reason. Trying to work the program alone doesn't work. It's too easy to convince yourself that you don't really need to attend meetings anymore or get a sponsor. The desire to do it yourself ends up creating isolation. And that is the gateway to using again.

On the flip side, sponsoring is like having your own private mentor. They walk you through the 12 steps and give individualized support. When you're the sponsor working with others gets you out of yourself. You find yourself saying things to your sponsee that YOU need to hear.

We don't sponsor because we have to - we sponsor because we need to remember the principles of honesty, humility, powerlessness and surrender. As we support another member, we reinforce our own recovery. I can't tell you how many times a sponsee has called me and I feel better after that call! 

Working The Steps

If holidays are difficult, going back and working the steps can move you past the hurt. Try writing a mini fourth step on a challenging situation.

Here's a list of questions to get you started.

  • Write about what's bothering you about the holidays.
  • How does this fear/resentment/hurt impact you?
  • What assumptions are you making that are likely based on the past?
  • Find your part in what happened.
  • What could do differently to have a better outcome?

Writing everything out on paper helps safeguard your recovery. Often, journaling provokes old emotions that have been buried. It's like an emotional cleanse before heading into the holidays.

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