Attending a festive family gathering where everyone is toasting away holiday stress can be agonizing for those in recovery. Stress of any kind can accelerate the relapse process, and the winter holidays can provide not only the stress of shopping, crowds, appearances and responsibilities, but exposure to overindulgences at wine-fueled parties. You may be wondering how to get through it without jeopardizing your sobriety or forfeiting all the engagements you have.
It’s not necessary to hibernate through the festivities at home in front of the T.V. with hot cocoa –although this may be an excellent back up plan. Recovery helps individuals who struggle with addiction and alcoholism to participate in life without needing to take a drink or a drug. The key is to anticipate, have a plan and take your recovery with you through this hectic time of year.
Stick with your daily routine and the basics of your normal recovery plan. Keep in touch with the people and meetings which promote sobriety, however many additional responsibilities come up. By putting your sobriety first you will be better able to manage additional plans and activities.
Lists can be a helpful way to prioritize, and if you find yourself making lists of gifts to buy, dishes to bring to meals, you can create one more list that will provide a better handle on stress. A gratitude list is a great idea that helps keep the season in perspective. You can also create a list of expectations this season that identifies what you feel you have to do and where you have to be; you’ll notice this list is mostly what other people expect from you rather than what you expect form yourself. Your expectation list will help you identify triggers for stress and anxiety, but it can be supplemented with a list of self-care measures.
According to the study done by West Virginia University, 70-80% of all disease and illness is related to stress, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating moderate and healthy meals. Take time for meditation and prayer, and learn to identify when you may need a break from activity. Having a back-up plan and driving yourself to dinner parties, for example, is another self-care measure to ensure you can leave when you’re ready.
Despite holiday stress, this time of year is about focusing on what’s most important: having gratitude for the people in your life and being of service to others. When you are struggling, take a moment to identify what you are doing for your sobriety today, and how you can help someone in need. If you have any concerns, talk them over with a trusted friend in recovery, therapist or member of The Discovery House staff.