Holiday Strategies for Staying Sober and Sane – Part 1
Stay Out of Harm’s Way
We diffuse a lot of potential holiday trouble by staying well out of the way of it in the first place. There is no shame in intentionally avoiding situations that may present unnecessary triggers or temptations. If you know the office party is going to be a peer-pressure-heavy drunk fest, and your position isn’t dependent upon your presence, plan to have other plans that night. While healthy, robust sobriety can go into any situation unscathed, if you are new to recovery, you need to be honest with yourself about particular settings and situations that may not be safe for you. Again, this is nothing to lament or be ashamed of—a relapse is.
The same holds true for certain family gatherings. Others may not be able to understand your reasons for staying home, but if you feel that a situation presents a danger zone for you, it’s acceptable to pass by simply explaining your need to do whatever necessary to maintain your sobriety; because your life depends upon it. Regardless of their initial reaction, your family would rather have you absent and healthy than present and relapsing.
Intentionally Resist the Stress and Schedule of the Holiday Season
Our society pushes and pressures us into an over-busy, overworked, over-partied frenzy from mid-November to early January. It is up to us to acknowledge that we have limits, and that if we are to maintain our sobriety, we must respect these limits. This season is hardly the time to slouch on your 12-step work or service commitments—we need these stabilizing, sobriety-promoting forces more than ever. If you feel your schedule or the expectations of others are causing undue stress and getting are in the way of your program, it is time to reconsider your schedule and any family or holiday drama that may be causing emotional disturbance.
If you are newly sober, you are still convalescing—not unlike a person who has been physically ill or suffered a disease. It is necessary to take your frenetic pace down a notch in order to maintain personal equilibrium and, most importantly, sobriety. This means saying no to the typical holiday schedule and stress. It means simplifying gifts and events and paring down the party lineup. Maybe instead of fighting the shopping mall crowds, you purchase gifts online. Perhaps instead of hitting all those holiday parties, you pick a handful to attend and politely decline the rest. Build in times for enjoying the season—a walk in the snow, listening to music with a cup of tea, reflecting on the year that is coming to a close and thinking about the year to come. In sobriety we can slow down and make an intentional decision to relish the season rather than slog through, praying for the end of it.
Thee holidays can quickly become a time of stress, frustration, loneliness, family overload, exhaustion, anxiety and depression. There is an antidote to this—focus on others. The holiday season is challenging for most people. What can you do to help alleviate the pressure?
No matter where you look, opportunities abound: people having parties need an extra hand, the elderly need help with shopping and getting around, food shelves are depleted, parents need a break, fellow members in recovery require support, those experiencing grief need extra tenderness, etc.
When you make the holidays about service, your own disappointments, resentments and emotions become less intense and dominating. Who can you help? Community service is an excellent means of extending generosity and getting outside of yourself, but don’t overlook the simple ways you can serve others right around you. This year, watch what happens when you seek to comfort and help others rather than waiting for them to comfort or cater to you.