The winter holidays can be a wonderful time of connecting with people, taking a break from your routine, and spending time on things that really matter to you. However, it can also be deeply stressful, with a lot of potential disappointment, stresses, and conflicts with other people. On top of all this, many celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s Eve often feature alcohol and sometimes even drug use, and you may be around people using the old temptations as people use them to unwind or relax. While it may feel tough, here are some steps to help you make it to January with your sobriety intact.
Keep in Touch
For many people in recovery, disruptions from a normal routine can be disconcerting and leave you feeling helpless and vulnerable to relapse. Some supportive friends may not be around, or you may be away from your normal life, “back home,” in a place you used to drink or use drugs. It can be very helpful to recognize this potential vulnerability and plan ahead. Find where an AA or other support group might be meeting in the place to which you are traveling. Even if you don’t know the people there, they can still offer a supportive ear to your commitment to stay sober in spite of the stresses of family. If you feel it would be helpful, you can travel with a friend able to hold you accountable and away from the airport bars, or you ask a sponsor to call you more often. Think about creative ways you can continue to stay in touch with your support base, and make it through these sometimes difficult months.
Refresh Your Memory
The commitment to sobriety is one that must be made on a “one-day-at-a-time,” continually reinforced in your own mind so that it sticks in spite of whatever challenges you encounter. Spend a little time every day being grateful for your sobriety, reminding yourself what life was like before your recovery and how things are getting better. That is not to say that your life will not be filled with hardships and stresses, but you will be more able to roll with the punches if you remind yourself of the ways you are growing in the recovery process.
Know Your Feelings
Be aware of your vulnerabilities, and monitor your own feelings. There might be times when the stress, or the temptation, may feel too strong, and it will be helpful to be able to look for ways of escape, or times you can get away. Continue to hold on to routines of taking care of yourself, and relaxing. It’s ok to limit the amount of time you spend with people who press your buttons, walk away from a party where substance abuse is happening, or have some alone time. Think about the stresses you are feeling and what you can do to meet your needs when you have them.
Some people struggle with ways to have “fun” that don’t involve sitting around and drinking, but the truth is that it is easy to have a good time in other ways. It might be helpful to creatively think up some fun activities, museums, parks, movies, or games, or anything else you can do to connect together and enjoy life drug and alcohol-free. If you do choose to go to a party where alcohol is served, you might find it helpful to bring an alternative beverage to share, to make a way for you to still be a part of things, and keep your goals of sobriety.