Home (and Sober) for the Holidays
You came out to California to get sober. You developed a rapport with your therapists and put their suggestions into action. You built a solid fellowship in recovery with clients in process groups and folks at meetings. Everything had been going swimmingly until the calendar turned and you realized you would be heading home just in time to deal with all the stress the holidays have to offer: tree trimming and candle lighting, angry mobs of shoppers, drunk uncles, and a fresh batch of flu straight from your niece’s preschool. Even normies get overwhelmed by the stress of the holiday season but they have peppermint schnapps and hot toddies to fall back on. Those of us in recovery need a more lasting, less poisonous alternative. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you get through the holidays.
Play the Tape Back
If your sponsor hasn’t taught you this yet, you should probably find a new one. Remember how your worst and most recent runs started and follow those threads through until their ends. For me, those ends were questionable motels, lost nights, jails, psych wards, and so forth, ad nauseam. Unsurprisingly, the beginning was always the same: the decision to take that first drink. The brain in active addiction is a master at obscuring the facts to get what it wants, so start re-training the mind to make the connection: that first drink or drug will lead to disaster every time.
Remember that it’s not all about you. I’m not going to lie and tell you there won’t be some awkwardness. I remember my first winter back from rehab and how I felt like that bug under the magnifying glass that gets talked about so much at meetings: all those relatives I had hurt, all those dinners I was too drunk or too hungover to eat, all those parties ruined, and there I was returning to the scene of the crime. The thing is, though, is that I shouldn’t have worried. First of all, most of the people I saw were just happy to see me sober and healthy. More importantly, they were there for a holiday party, not a return-from-rehab party. Everyone is trying to enjoy the season and helping them do just that is a key to happiness.
Stick to Your Schedule
The holidays are often a vacation from work or school, but never from recovery. If you usually hit meetings during the week, get online and check the schedule for the region you’ll be visiting. You’ll meet some new people, hear some new stories, and your sobriety will be that much stronger for it. If you have a sober support network (and believe me, you need one), be sure to call or text and stay in touch with those people. You’ll be helping them just as much as they’re helping you. It works for the rest of the year – why wouldn’t it work during the holiday season?
It can help regulate your sleeping patterns. It can improve your mood. It helps your brain heal and build new neural connections. Seriously, why aren’t you doing this already? Exercise isn’t a silver bullet to cure addiction, but there few tools in my belt that I rely on more heavily. And during the holiday season, we could all use a few more calories burned. That extra energy expended means I don’t have to choose between grandma’s pecan and pumpkin pies. One slice of each, please.
Open Your Mouth
As a wise man once said, be humble. Our journey in recovery begins when we put out our hands and ask for help, and that humility will sustain us as we walk the path. Always remember that you don’t have to do this alone. You don’t have to be a Debbie Downer about it (see “Perspective” above) but let some of your close relatives know what you’re going through. Maybe that cousin who’s basically been a best friend ever since you guys were eating sand on the playground together. They can help keep you accountable, they can give a little extra support when needed, and just knowing that someone has your back can make a world of difference in stressful situations.
The great thing about these tips is that they aren’t reinventing the wheel – these are strategies that will serve you in early recovery, the holiday season, and throughout your journey on the path to lasting happiness. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol or drugs and feel like this holiday season is going to be too much, please don’t hesitate to call Ocean Recovery today.