How to Make It Through the Holidays in Recovery

You might look forward to the holidays, as they can bring about great joy and excitement with close loved ones. On the other hand, you may feel overwhelmed when thinking of the holidays, especially if you are experiencing strained family relationships. Even amid the celebration, there will come moments of stress and perhaps even triggers. 

If you are in recovery from addiction, there are healthy steps that you can take for yourself to ensure your safety during the holidays. It is essential to recognize and identify potentially triggering situations and know how to respond when they arise. You deserve to enjoy the holiday season just as much as everyone else, and taking these necessary steps will allow you to do so. 

Recognizing and Identifying Potential Triggers

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to identify potentially triggering situations that might come up during the holidays. Consider what social gatherings or other situations might surface these triggers to use or triggers for emotional reactions. Some examples might include:

  • Attending a work party knowing that alcohol will be readily available, although you are doing your best to stay sober
  • Attending a family gathering where relatives may surface triggering topics of discussion, causing you to become anxious or angry
  • Knowing a relative is bound to ask you about your rehab experiences, although you are not ready to talk about it
  • Having more alone time because of holiday breaks from work

Developing Sober Strategies

Once you discover what situations might be triggering you, it is time to develop sober strategies. If you are attending support group meetings for recovery or even continuing therapy, this may be a great topic to bring up with a mental health professional or your peers. Developing a plan to protect your recovery and maintain sobriety before a triggering situation occurs will give you a sense of awareness and confidence of what to do next when you are in a challenging situation. Some examples of sober strategies may look like: 

  • Attending local support group meetings before or after a challenging holiday event
  • Inviting your sponsor or another sober friend to your holiday festivities
  • Coming up with an exit plan on how to leave a triggering situation as well as always making sure you have a way to leave an event safely
  • Calling a close friend in recovery before, during, or after an event to help you hold yourself accountable
  • Limiting your time at social gatherings or around difficult people

Your sober strategies may look very different from the examples listed above. The most important thing about maintaining sobriety and preventing relapse is being fully aware during a given situation. It is crucial to avoid known risks and balance that with the importance of taking advantage of the community and social gatherings available during times of celebration. Community and belonging are essential to recovery. By identifying who and what you can handle, you will be able to recognize and honor your own limits during the holidays. 

Tips to Remember

You can remember many tips when you come face to face with challenging emotions or difficult situations during the holidays. Remember to:

  • Avoid comparing yourself and your recovery to others and their recovery. Celebrate the good things in life and remember that everyone is on their own journey.
  • Know how to say “no.” You do not have to attend every event that you are invited to. If it feels more like an obligation than a joyful event, you are allowed to say no. Be confident in where you choose to spend your time.
  • Manage your expectations. We are only responsible for ourselves and our own reactions. Manage your expectations of yourself this holiday season and acknowledge realistic outcomes.
  • Allow yourself to feel. The holidays often surface challenging memories from our past, perhaps ones from which we were never able to heal. Be kind to your mind and feel all of the emotions that may come up. Find healing coping mechanisms, like mindfulness, to work through difficult emotions as they come.

Prioritize Your Recovery

Self-care is another important element that needs to be considered during the holiday season. Take time for yourself by getting the proper amount of sleep that works for you, engage in a healthy diet and exercise, and set boundaries for your mental health. Mind and body go hand in hand. If you feel good physically, you are much more likely to feel stronger emotionally. Continue to engage in reflection and make time for the people you love. 

The holiday season tends to be overwhelming for people in recovery. Holidays may surface challenging memories from the past, strain relationships with loved ones, or trigger uncomfortable feelings. To make it through the holidays in recovery, it is essential to recognize and identify the situations that may cause distress. Develop sober strategies for how to handle these situations as they arise. Always have a close friend to call when you need to be held accountable, and know when to step back and take time for yourself. Understand that the holidays pose new challenges for your recovery, although it is all a part of the journey. South Florida Intervention wants to help you take the necessary steps towards ending addiction in your family. We offer a range of recovery services, including crisis prevention and other long-term services. For more information about what we offer, give us a call at (202) 390-2273.