Triggers during the holidays can be avoided. Holidays can be fun-filled or stressful depending on the situation. Many recovering addicts find themselves still estranged from loved ones as they try and rebuild trust. For others, going home for the holidays would put them in their old stomping grounds, which is risky, so they choose to stay away and are subsequently lonely. And there are also those who have a great time with family and friends, but there are still more temptations at this time of year than is typical. The following strategies will help you enjoy the holidays while staying on the path to sobriety.
Bring your own non-alcoholic drinks
When invited to a holiday gathering, whether it is with friends or family, depending on non-alcoholic beverages being offered can be a problem. If you have an alcohol addiction it can be a trigger. Bringing your own is a way to ensure you have a beverage you enjoy and that nobody accidentally or naively gives you an alcohol-based drink. Make it fun. Search online for some festive, alcohol drink you have never tried before, and fill a container with it to keep in the refrigerator at the event.
Incorporate Some Relaxing Time
The whirlwind of holiday events can be overwhelming. Choose from your invitations carefully so that you will spend time with those who support your recovery, while also having time to decompress at home. It is okay not to accept every invitation. A polite, “Thanks for thinking of me. Won't be able to make it this year. Have a great holiday!”- is acceptable. Take the time to enjoy a tranquil evening at home with some snacks and a favorite movie. It will help you recharge for the next fun event.
Out With the Old and in With the New
Each year, people reach out to those they have not seen for awhile and they want to get together for the holidays. Once you quit drugs, the people you used drugs or went drinking with are not who you should spend your holidays with. If they reach out to you, politely decline to get together and if needed call your sponsor or a non-using friend and offer to hang out with him instead. Not associating with people you used with one of the most important things you can do to maintain sobriety – holiday season is no different.
Homeless shelters, charity toy drives, and others need all the help they can get. Spending time helping others have a good holiday will keep your mind in a good place and you will be a serving society in a healthy way. There are also food banks and soup kitchens that can be overwhelmed with a need at this time of year. Call one, offer a few hours, and see how satisfying it is to be a part of something selfless.
Watch the Budget
Financial problems are stressful and stress is a trigger for relapse. While shopping for gifts, remember that it truly is the thought that counts. Only spend what you can afford without breaking the bank. Think about gifts that have no monetary value but lots of meaning. Could you spend time reading to your elderly aunt? Is there a child in the family who wants to know how to throw a football? Get an inexpensive one with a coupon for a couple hours of tossing the ball. Write letters to those closest to you expressing your gratitude for them being in your life. Put them in decorative baskets with packages of hot cocoa mix and inexpensive coffee mugs. There are many ways to give a gift that does not cost a lot of money. Coming out of the holiday season with money for bills and no stress is a great gift for yourself.
Reach out for Help When Needed
At any point during the holiday season, you begin feeling overwhelmed, stressed or triggered, reach out to your sponsor. If your sponsor is out of town for the season, reach out to a trusted, friend or family member – but not someone with addiction. If you are comfortable discussing your stress, do so. If you are not comfortable with it, simply ask that person to spend some time with you. You have been here before with triggers, and you know it will pass. Don't be afraid to meet them head-on with a battle plan.
If you or a loved one has an addiction or substance abuse disorder, call 801-533-0070. The Haven in Salt Lake City, Utah is ready to answer your questions.