The holidays are upon us and for those who are newly sober—and even those who…
Holiday Strategies for Staying Sober and Sane – Part 2
This is a two-part strategy. First, plan your events wisely. During the holiday season, there may be work parties and family parties and neighborhood parties and special events and occasions happening several nights a week. All this added to the need to shop for family and friends and prepare for your own celebrations, not to mention keeping up with the regular work, family and Twelve-Step commitments. Pare down. Do you know you need a few nights a week of at-home downtime in order to maintain your emotional balance and be present to your work and/or family? Then plan accordingly rather than living by the seat of your pants, or trying to somehow stuff it all in and then feeling resentful in the process. Decide which events are the most important and then agree to forego the others.
The second part of planning is deciding how you will respond to common holiday triggers. If you are going to a party where a lot of alcohol will be served, you may want to bring a few bags of herbal tea or a bottle of sparkling water so that you have a beverage of your own and won’t feel awkward among a group of partiers holding goblets. Know that Aunt Susie knows how to push your buttons? Plan and rehearse a few healthy responses that won’t cause you to later need to make amends. Be honest with yourself about who you are and what you need at this point in your recovery—do what you need to do to honor and protect yourself.
Deal with Resentment Swiftly
You can be preemptive in avoiding a breakdown, slip or relapse by keeping your triggers in check. And for addicts, the main trigger is resentment. Even if you are new to recovery, you are probably already familiar with the people and circumstances that have a tendency to get under your skin and disrupt your serenity. The schedule of parties, events and observances involving family of origin, in-laws, challenging coworkers, and friendships or romances gone sour can put us in choppy waters. In the past we had another drink and tried not to think of it, or we got drunk and shot our mouths off, or we became codependent and tried to be the fixer, or we detached from the situation altogether.
Be honest with yourself and recognize in advance that holidays hold the potential to be a time of concentrated resentment—old dysfunctional family patterns are reawakened, we’re put into close proximity with our less-than-favorite people and we no longer have some chemical crutch to help us numb our way through the season. The pressure of the holiday events only increases the propensity for resentments to form. And, as we know, resentments lead us back to the addiction.
Instead of letting the resentments build and fester, deal with them promptly. If you know you are going to an event where there will be challenging people and dynamics, talk it out with a program friend beforehand. Get tips for navigating your triggers and look honestly at any new resentments that may have come up, taking each one through the 12-Step process. If we want to stay sober this season, we must be intentional about recognizing the resentment-inspiring forces in our lives and making plans to deal with them in a healthy manner.
Practice Mindfulness and/or Relaxation Techniques
If you don’t already have these practices built into your life, this is a good time to start. Even short sessions of meditation, prayer, yoga or another relaxing activity go a long way in helping you to navigate the season and unwind from the stress. You will be calmer when the stress is turned up if you are in the routine of practicing these activities, so don’t wait until the day of the big event to begin experimenting with meditation. Start cultivating the practice so that when the stress hits, you will have your defenses built up.
Planning to host a big dinner or holiday party? Schedule time into your day for a long walk, a massage, a chat with a friend over coffee or another activity that will help relieve stress and center you for the big event. If you plan well, you can easily squeeze in some important “me-time.” This shouldn’t be seen as an indulgence, but rather an important part of your plan for holiday season sanity and sobriety.
Continued in Twelve Holiday Strategies for Staying Sober and Sane – Part 3.