Safeguarding Your Recovery Around The Holidays

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The holidays can be a difficult time if you're in recovery. There are so many temptations and social pressure to join in the fun. Even normal drinkers get into trouble since there are so many opportunities to over-indulge.

Stay Connected to Meetings!

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

These groups are absolutely free and available worldwide. There are also online and phone meetings for those in more remote areas. During the holidays “marathon meetings” that run 24 hours around most major holidays to help members stay connected.

These meetings provide a much needed safety net when dealing with the challenging associated with the festivities. The added pressure to drink is a bad combination with unpleasant memories that makes the holidays extra challenging.

Prioritize Your Recovery & Pick Wisely  

Planning out the holidays is your first task. Just because you've always gone to Aunt Mary's for Thanksgiving doesn't mean you have to this year. Recovery is all about making healthy 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 other members plus your sponsor helps. Once you've made a plan, sandwich the holidays with lots of meetings.

When you can't go to meetings recovery podcasts can supplement - but not replace meetings in 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

If you’ve experienced relapsed before, write out what was happening at the time that may have contributed to it. You can always learn from a slip if you’re willing to dissect what went wrong. That way the slip serves as a valuable lesson.

Next, make a list of what your triggers are that would make you want to use. Here are some common relapse triggers:

  • Being with old friends that still drink and use

  • Going to any family or social event that focuses on drinking

  • Stress and difficult feelings that are difficult to manage

  • Feelings of loss or grief

  • Relationship problems

  • 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 creates isolation. And that becomes the gateway to using again.

On the flip side, sponsorship 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. Sponsees become your lifeline of accountability.

No one sponsors because they have to - you sponsor because you need to remember the principles of honesty, humility, powerlessness and surrender. As you support each other, that reinforces your own recovery.

Working The Steps

If holidays are difficult, working the steps can promote some healing about past hurts. 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 the situation.

  • 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.

Final Thoughts

Although the holidays can be a challenging time, take advantage of the many things 12 step program have to offer. Look for sober holiday events to connect with others and experience sober fun. Attend a marathon meeting to avoid isolation. You might be surprised at how much better you feel remembering what happened the next morning without guilt or remorse. That gives a sense of relief that no substance can offer!


I’ve created a private resource library including 20 Ways to Detach When You Need A Break and 15 Steps to Setting Healthy Boundaries plus lots more! Click the image to get access now!

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