For years, Elsie coasted on the edge of drinking every night and appearing sober. Until that edge became thinner and thinner and she had to reveal her secret to her loved ones.
The holiday season can bring joy, but it can also highlight loneliness and unrealistic expectations. Advertising and marketing bombard us with images that we may never have – like a family that can happily sit down at a table together; or material items that we can never afford – like the newest luxury car with a giant red bow on the roof. There are frequent parties and events scheduled that revolve around drinking and a pressure to be “merry” that can make it especially difficult to maintain sobriety.
Here are some suggestions to make the holidays a bit safer for your recovery:
1. Streamline holiday routines to minimize stress
Keep your calendar light and full of activities that are actually meaningful and beneficial to you and your family.
2. Practice gratitude
Bring out those journals and write gratitude lists daily, acknowledging the many blessings in your life and don’t fall into the habit of unrealistic comparisons.
3. Set boundaries to protect your recovery
Refuse invitations, especially if this is your first year in recovery.
Say, “I’m sorry, I will not be attending the Christmas Wine Tasting fundraiser this year, would you accept a donation?” or “I would love to meet to exchange gifts, but I have stopped drinking this year, could we meet for brunch instead of the usual bar and grill?”
If you decide to participate in an event with alcohol, bring a sober buddy and devise an exit strategy if you are feeling triggered. Attend sober events and activities throughout the season (AA or NA meetings are often available around the clock on major holidays).
4. Reach out to loved ones
Use your network when you are feeling even slightly down. Process fears about the holiday season sober with your therapist or sponsor.
5. Increase Self Care
Whatever you do for self-care – the gym, acupuncture, yoga, massage – give yourself the gift of more time spent performing the activities that strengthen your spirit.