Because of the duality of emotions that are part of the holiday season, (happiness/sadness, calm/stress, comradery/isolation etc.), it can be the most difficult time for those in recovery. The struggle to resist temptation to revert to old ways can be a challenge, but there are a number of things that the person in recovery as well as the people in their lives can do to help during the holiday season.
Isolation and feelings of isolation can be counterproductive to recovery, so the holidays present an opportunity for many to be among those friends and family that they love. The people that we love can also be the source of great stress and pressures that make it more difficult to stay on the road to recovery.
Every journey of recovery for every individual is different. If the holidays come soon after starting down the path when your resolve may be weaker, some events should be avoided all together or minimized in terms of time spent. For instance, if you know that an event is sure to be alcohol-heavy; either avoid it all together or go early, make an appearance, and leave early.
Staying away from all events and people is equally bad, so be around the family and friends that are supportive so that you experience the best of what the holidays have to offer. A family get-together or holiday party for work will often be a place where alcohol is present, so if you’re on the journey to recovery, don’t let remembrances of past events inform the present course of your life.
Before heading out the door to the party, practice what you will say if offered a drink so that you’re prepared to respond and not caught of guard. You only need to make a simple statement rather than a long explanation when you refuse a drink.
Remember that being around family and friends during the holidays can be both enjoyable and stressful. Avoid topics that will exacerbate that stress and provide further temptations to revert to old ways of coping. If the people at the event are close to you they may or may not know about your recovery path. It can help to have a sober companion accompany you to these events for support.
It can be a good idea to think about leaving early if the alcohol consumption begins to rise as the party progresses. If it’s a family event, you may want to let the host know at the outset that you may be leaving early so that they are not concerned or surprised if and when you do.
Think about bringing your favorite non-alcoholic beverage along with you rather than relying on what may be there to drink. If possible, bring enough for others to partake so that it becomes a shared holiday experience rather than one that further isolates you from other party goers.
The bottom line during the holidays is to remember that the joy of recovery comes from focusing on the best things of life rather than worries of relapsing in the sight of alcohol. Your recovery, health and happiness are your priorities, so a little planning can make the holidays a good time where stress, loneliness and temptation are low while comradery, joy and calm can abound.