For many of us the holiday season is ‘the most wonderful time of year’! A time when family and friends get together to carve the turkey, trim the christmas tree and ring in the new year. While there is no denying that little extra something in the air during the holidays, we’ve got to admit that it’s not all merry and bright. The holiday season is also the most stressful time of year! A time where many of us experience financial pressure, social expectation and family dysfunction. For those in recovery, especially those new to sobriety, this time of year can be triggering and overwhelming. We at the Dismas Home of New Hampshire are here to tell you that the holiday season doesn’t have to be draining nor cause the fear of relapse to weigh heavily on your mind. By developing a holiday relapse prevention plan, the season can begin to look a lot more jolly.
Why is Relapse Common During the Holiday
It is important to address why relapse is more common during the holidays. First, the months leading up to the holiday season tend to be damp, cold and gloomy. The absence of fresh air and sunshine may cause Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) wreaking havoc on your mood and energy. Secondly, many of the festivities are centered around the superabundance of food and alcohol which in turn gives us an excuse to overindulge without fear of judgment. These two things combined is a recipe for disaster for those in recovery.
Developing a Plan
Before developing your relapse prevention plan it is important to reflect on your triggers. Being able to identify them can help you plan for them accordingly. It is also important to reassess what this time of year means to you. If it’s not in line with your recovery journey you can redefine it.
Some of the most common triggers include;
- Holiday parties – where 9 times out of 10 alcohol in every form will be readily available. Ask yourself if attending is the right choice for you? Will you be able to fight the temptations or should you avoid it all together?
- Family dynamics – if being around your family is toxic or brings out the worst in you , give yourself permission to refrain from going home for the holidays. They may not understand but you do and that’s what matters most.
- Financial burden – Feeling obligated to spend money on presents, hosting an event, or partaking in expensive activities can negatively impact your holiday experience. Evaluate the importance of partaking and make smart choices regardless of what others are doing. Poor financial choices could have long lasting consequences.
Now that you know your triggers let’s get to planning.
- Be firm in the decision you make about attending holiday functions – don’t compromise yourself in the quest to please another. If you choose to attend any festivities ensure you have your own safe and reliable means of transportation, this guarantees that you can leave whenever you want.
- Indulge in self-care whatever that means to you – it may be exercising, eating nutritious foods, journaling, meditating, practicing mindfulness or additional therapy sessions.
- Get support – it is important to have a strong support group during the holidays, it helps in preventing loneliness and feelings of loss and grief.
- Stay focused – remember why you began this journey, all the changes you have made toward becoming the person you want to be living the life you want to live. Stay connected to your goals, read them daily and know the holidays are just a small part of your year.
- Create new traditions – while in recovery you will learn that creating new traditions is a must. During your addiction, some traditions were centered around using drugs and alcohol. You are a different person now so it’s time to implement new ones. Here are 3 new traditions that might my brighten your holidays;
Volunteering – lend your time to someone who needs it, who knows you may have fun and you will have such a sense of pride and satisfaction.
Start a holiday movie marathon – who doesn’t love a movie marathon? Cozy up some popcorn or hot chocolate and fall in love with the season all over again.
Find a new hobby – the options are endless, your local craft store has a section just about everything from baking to ornament making. This might be a good time to decorate a new journal or create a vision board for the new year.
We know that this time of year isn’t easy and we know the incredible strength it takes to prioritize your sobriety. Know that we at the Dismas Home of New Hampshire stand beside you and we celebrate each and every one of your victories.