Avoiding Relapse During the Holidays
The holidays may be challenging, but it's possible to maintain recovery.
Posted December 16, 2019 | Reviewed by Davia Sills
The holidays can be a difficult time for people to stay sober, especially those who are new to sobriety or who have tenuous relationships with their family members. Here are a few things you can do to help yourself put your sobriety first during the holiday season.
Find local support group meetings. Whether you use 12 steps, SMART, a Buddhist recovery program, or another form of support, find out where the meetings are near your family gathering. Call Central Office and ask for the numbers of local support group members who might be willing to meet you at a meeting. Go to meetings before or after your event and let people know what’s going on.
Have a list of people to call. Especially if you are traveling away from home, you can take your support network with you. Have a list of people you can call if the situation becomes challenging. You want people who will listen and show you how you can behave in a way that will calm the waters. It’s important to be open to seeing our own part in things. That’s what a support system can do.
You have the right to leave. If it seems like a situation is going to devolve, you have every right to leave. You can do this in a short-term way, by excusing yourself to a restroom or outside and regrouping. You can make a call.
If the problem is at such a level that you need to leave the event, call an Uber, and get out of there. If you think things might escalate, bring your own transportation so that you are not trapped. Just remember that you don’t have to stay if you are uncomfortable.
Pray or meditate. You can find a lot of strength and inner resources by praying. Pray for calm and the ability to see the good in someone who challenges you.
Ask for the ability to ignore baiting. Ask for strength and an opportunity to be of service. Regulate your breathing. Sit in stillness until you can attend to others in an appropriate and helpful way.
Be of service. There are almost always ways we can help. It might be doing the dishes or helping your nephew learn to tie his shoes. It might be getting wood from the woodpile or extra blankets out if someone unexpectedly decides to stay the night. Walk the dog if you can. Being of service can even be biting your tongue when a hot topic comes up. See where you can be helpful and do it.
Engage without expectations. Just because you are in recovery doesn’t mean that anyone else in your family has to change. You may or may not be in a situation where you will be supported. Don’t expect anyone to be other than who they are, and you won’t be disappointed.
Keep your side of the street clean. We always have the opportunity to make a situation worse or better. Choose to make your event a happier time by not starting anything. Holiday parties are not a time for airing grievances or starting deep conversations about past wrongs. Disengage when others want to bring up difficult subjects. Keep it light.
Your recovery is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your loved ones. Honor yourself by protecting your recovery. Put your health first. No one wants a relapse for the holidays.