Holidays: An Opportunity to Gauge Your Recovery
Family Time: Triggers Are Everywhere
The holidays are the time of year when many of us travel home to visit our families. As a recovery partner of mine said to me recently: of course your family knows how to push your buttons—they’re the ones who installed them. Given that understanding family dynamics plays a big part in recovery and family issues are what brought many of us to recovery in the first place, we have to recognize the fact that holiday time with the family has the potential to be a minefield of memories, emotions and, therefore, triggers. Here are some helpful hints for dealing with them:
- Prepare Yourself. Knowing what to expect and having your go-to internal coping mechanisms on deck and ready for action is half the battle. Triggers can often elicit immediate floods of emotion, anxiety and adrenaline. Be ready to handle these. It might feel a little awkward to get up from the dinner table and go for a walk, but if you have to—do it.
- Find a Meeting. If you’re traveling, it’s a good idea to have a look on the Internet to find a meeting in your destination area. If you’re already home and family is coming to you, make sure you can get to your meetings: if your regular schedule is off, look around and find an alternate.
- Use the Phone. Call a mentor, recovery partner or friend if you feel you need someone to talk to. If you go to meetings but haven’t yet exchanged numbers with anyone, this might be a good time to take that step—especially if you’re traveling away from your typical support system.
- Top Line Behaviors. If you’re traveling, plan ways to engage in your top line behaviors while you’re away from home. For instance, if the gym is your thing, do some research and find one close to your destination. If you’re not traveling, make sure to schedule top line behaviors and try your best to stick to the plan. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and to leave out “me” time, but at this time of year it couldn’t be more important.
- Be Mindful of Amends. If you’re in a 12-step program and are at the point where you’re making amends, please be mindful of your family and loved ones. Holidays are charged with emotion for everyone involved, not just those of us in recovery. If you think this is a good time to have “the talk” with a specific person, check in with your mentor and other recovery partners first. Listen to their advice, be responsible with your words and make sure this is the right time.
A Time to Reflect, Gauge Progress and Look Forward
There’s another aspect of the holidays I haven’t mentioned: for some reason, this is the time of year when things from the past—people or places—have the uncanny habit of popping back up. If you’re traveling home, you might bump into someone from your past who was toxic for you. You might find yourself in places that bring back memories that have been buried for years. Honestly, this time of year seems like “A Christmas Carol,” with ghosts of relationships past coming back to haunt you. The timing can be spooky—not five minutes after a family member says something that brings up your “stuff,” you’ll get a text from someone with a not-so-subtle offer to act out. However, there’s an alternative way to look at these things and a positive way to deal with them. Rather than feeling haunted or tempted, try this thought experiment: these might be chances to put your recovery into action. Maybe, just maybe, this is the universe giving you the opportunity to say “No” to that which you know to be negative and self-destructive, and to say “Yes” to recovery, progress and a healthy life.
By Angus Whyte