Holiday season is upon us. Safeguarding one’s emotional health and recovery must always come first. Social gatherings, family celebrations and various custom traditions are what make the holidays so special and filled with joy. But travel, unrealistic expectations, unhealthy eating, financial strain, and fatigue can fray anyone’s emotions. This is particularly true for individuals impacted by Substance Use Disorder (SUD), especially those in: early recovery, families of loss, and families who’s loved one might still be struggling.
To prepare for the upcoming holidays, here are some practical tips and our personal experiences to avoid recurrence or emotional meltdown:
Be creative and start new traditions – Holidays often are associated with drinking and attending parties, and we might be unsure of how to celebrate. To prevent falling back into old habits, starting new traditions, doing something different, and creating new memories can help making the holidays fun & fresh.
Be mindful of your loved one’s emotions – Buildup of stress, expectations, and resentments that might come with the holiday season, we often experience a wide range of emotions. But remembering that our families, coworkers, or friends might also be feeling tired and stressed, will help us realize that we may need to adjust our attitudes, lower expectations and be forgiving of ourselves and others.
Stay connected with your support structure – Holiday season can make us feel extremely vulnerable. Traveling and being away from our routine can trigger feelings of isolation and loneness. Attending a meeting in the new location, calling our friends or even bringing along a recovery book can be tremendously helpful to hold on to our recovery.
Make a brief appearance, have an exit strategy or don’t attend – Too often, people feel obligated to do things that aren’t good for them. The reality is that we shouldn’t feel forced to do anything we don’t want to. Attend events where you feel comfortable. Say “no” or quietly leave if you must. Bringing a friend and your own vehicle can serve as a safety net to avoid unnecessary challenging situations.
Help others who may be struggling more than you – This time of year, volunteer opportunities are plentiful. Whether helping someone struggling with SUD, serving meals at a soup kitchen, or walking dogs at the shelter, volunteering is one of the best things we can do for our souls. It refreshes the mind, changes our perspectives, and reminds us about many different things we can be grateful for.
Realize not everyone drinks – Be mindful there might be someone in your social gathering that maybe some individuals who do not consume alcoholic beverages for various reasons. Have plenty of other non-alcoholic beverage options, such as, soda, water, coffee, tea or even mocktails.
Someone once told me – Holiday season is the “Bermuda Triangle.” Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, there are many parties, social gatherings, and work celebrations. Six years ago, being new to recovery, I was terrified. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one and learned there are many recovery holiday events everywhere. That first Bermuda Triangle was scary, hard, and emotional. But I got through it by frequently reaching out to my support network.
Bring your own drink. Then no one tries to serve you alcohol and removes the awkwardness of explaining why you are not drinking . These days people might be jealous of your favorite holiday peppermint Starbucks concoction !