Holidays are notoriously difficult. They are a time of joy and celebration that doubles as depression and unmet expectations. Everyone has a hard time during this time of year with the intense pressures to look good and feel good. But it’s especially hard on people like us.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years have long been considered the Bermuda Triangle of Addiction. Old triggers, new problems, and family issues come together to create the perfect climate for relapse. We have the added pressure of being around ubiquitous substance-induced merriment that people understandably support during this time of year because the holidays are a time when even the most level-headed, moderate drinker will want to swig down their feelings. Being around people who indulge in our favorite former coping mechanisms is particularly difficult and it is an almost unavoidable situation around the holidays.
Tomorrow marks the official beginning of 2015’s ‘Hellidays’ and we made a handy guide on how to handle your day no matter what the circumstance is.
Pre-event strategizing- you aren’t the only one with problems. Talk to someone else in the family about what troubles you the most about other members of the meal and figure out how to best distance yourself from any predictable stressors.
Treat them like family. Sometimes the family you are born into isn’t the family you value most, and that’s OK. Relationships are complicated and thanksgiving with friends can often times be less dramatic and stressful.
Not everyone has family or friends to spend the holidays with. In a lot of ways, that is a good thing. You don’t have the added pressure of worrying about others and worrying about what they think of you. The only job you have is to take care of yourself. If you are at a halfway house or shelter, try to ingratiate yourself into any social gatherings and strengthen your ties in the community.
- It is not a formal rule to serve alcohol at thanksgiving. If you can, try limiting the libations to just the sit-down meal, especially if there are other people in recovery (or those who need to be but don’t know it yet) at the party.
- No matter how strong our own support network is, meetings are always a valuable way to make new connections, empathize with others, and learn more about what weakens and strengthens your recovery.
- Willpower is finite. With increased temptations, simplify your decision-making. Consider planning out tasks in advance such as choosing a healthy breakfast the night before, what your workout routine will be, or what you want to do to relax.
- Remember your triggers. When you can easily acknowledge the causes behind your struggles, it’s much easier to control impulses and feelings of helplessness.
If we can detach ourselves from all the sadness and trauma that may surround this holiday and replace it with affirmations of gratitude and strength, we can confront and overcome even the most difficult memories and situations.