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As we talked about in our last blog post, the holiday season can be difficult for people in recovery. Things like unrealistic expectations, family dysfunction, unhealthy eating and drinking, financial strain, travel complications, and fatigue are unfortunately common around the holidays.

When these triggers pop up, they can easily increase the risk of relapse.

Guard Your Recovery

No matter where you are in your recovery journey – whether you’re new to sobriety or you’ve been sober for years – it pays to be cautious during the holidays. With that in mind, below are five tips to help with guarding and protecting your precious recovery during this time of year.

#1 Recovery First – Always

xmas babyNo matter the holiday event or gathering, it’s essential to develop a plan to maintain your recovery ahead of time. This could mean planning to go to a support group meeting before or after the event, contacting a sponsor and ask him or her to attend the event with you, downloading rideshare apps on your phone so you can leave the event whenever you like, and so on.

Know that you have the ability to limit the amount of time you spent in stressful situations and around stress-inducing people. After all, relapse prevention is about having awareness of the people, places, and things that can cause triggers and planning strategies to guard your sobriety during those unavoidable situations.

#2 Participation is NOT Mandatory

All too often, people feel like they “have to” do things that they know aren’t good for them. But the truth is that you shouldn’t feel forced to do anything – that includes showing up for holiday parties or get-togethers. Show up for the events where you feel comfortable and you know the surrounding people support your recovery. There’s no logical reason to show up for a holiday party where everyone is purposely trying to sabotage your sobriety or incorrectly convince you that having “just one drink” is no big deal.

#3 Have an Exit Strategy

If you happen to find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, having an exit strategy is a great way to alleviate unnecessary stress. A few ideas might include giving yourself permission to slip out quietly or letting others at the party know that you can only stay for a short while.

#4 Give Some Time to a Good Cause

collect moments not thingsVolunteering is a wonderful thing to do anytime of the year, whether you’re in recovery or not. But for those in recovery, volunteer work during the holidays offers some very special benefits. It puts your mind in a positive of serving others, it changes your perspective, and it encourages feelings of gratitude. There’s a sense of purpose in helping others who need it.

During the holidays, opportunities to volunteer are plentiful. Whether it’s serving food at a soup kitchen, collecting winter coats for the homeless, or helping to care for dogs and cats at the local shelter, there’s a calling for everyone.

#5 Try Holiday Journaling

You don’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist to get some great recovery benefits from journaling. During the holidays, there’s no shortage of twinkling lights, beautiful decorations, and smiles on children’s faces. Soak up the wonder and joy of the season…and put those feelings down on paper.

Every day, take the time to write down a few things that you’re grateful for or chronicle one event that brought a smile to your face. If you find yourself struggling with the holiday blues, pull out your journal. It will help you remember that you have so much to be grateful for…and your recovery is certainly one of those things!

Be sure to check back next week for the third blog in our holiday series where we’ll talk about creating a holiday survival plan to avoid relapse.

 

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