The holidays can be a challenging time for all of us, especially those in recovery. An increase in sugary, fatty foods, plus a decrease in structure, combined with a mixture of family chaos, can quickly become a recipe for relapse. Despite the many challenges of sustaining recovery in this season, there are essential strategies that will help you maintain momentum and enjoy the peace and joy that may be possible throughout the holidays. Here are 5 ingredients that will not only help you avoid relapse but also lead you through a more enjoyable holiday experience that moves your recovery progress forward.
Recipe for Recovery
Remain committed. Remember, while you may be on vacation from your work responsibilities, you are not on vacation from your values or your recovery work. Maintain your “Dailies” and self-care, so that you can stay on track emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Starting with morning inspiration and ending with healthy evening decompression will be especially important.
Stay connected. Whether the holidays represent joy or family chaos for you, it is common for extended family involvement to bring an assortment of feelings bubbling to the surface. Reaching out to recovery group members, friends, your spouse or partner, your accountability team, or a sponsor, can help you stay grounded rather than simply reverting to your childhood role and all of the emotions associated with it. Instead of reaching for more pumpkin pie or another “drug” of choice, reach out to someone in your support system, whether by phone, text, or face-to-face conversation. Crying out to God may also provide a place of solace and refuge.
Avoid black & white thinking. Just because you may enjoy some special treats over the holidays does not mean all of your goals must be discarded. Excess is not your friend. Staying up all night, stuffing yourself silly (repeatedly), obsessive spending, etc, will make you vulnerable to forgetting your “bottom lines”, boundaries, and values. This kind of living will leave you feeling tired, lazy, and uncommitted, all of which are dangerous mentalities for those in recovery. When you make a poor choice, forgive yourself, and recommit. Stewing in your shame is counterproductive.
Be mindful. With new environments come new temptations. Be aware and be wise. You know your triggers. While it is important to maintain an awareness, or mindfulness, of your surroundings, it does not need to become an obsession. In fact, it may be helpful to focus on positive, enjoyable experiences rather than thinking about avoiding all the things you know you “shouldn’t” have.
Have fun! While all of the previous recommendations are important, they do not mean you are expected to have a boring, uneventful experience. That kind of vacation is a setup for relapse. If you deprive yourself of fun, you will likely eventually seek out excitement in self-destructive ways. Recovery can be a time of learning, maybe for the first time, how to enjoy and live freely without the “drug” you once depended on. Find creative ways to enjoy yourself, relax, laugh, and savor life and time with those you love.
Staying focused over the holidays will require effort. While it may initially feel bothersome to implement the above strategies, it will actually help you experience a freer holiday season. How can this be true, you might ask? Rather than seeing these suggestions as duties, consider them keys to freedom. They provide the structure that will free you from the slavery of addiction. Keeping in mind the purpose of these strategies and your reasons for staying committed will help you remain on track in implementing them. Being proactive in this way can help you finish your holiday break feeling rested, refreshed, healthy, on track, and proud of your progress.