If you are wondering how to navigate the holidays safely this year, you are not alone.
Even in the best of times, holidays can be daunting with the logistical challenges of getting everyone around the table, avoiding the topics that can ruin a meal, and the pressure of living up to often unreasonable expectations. Add in a global pandemic, a hotly contested election, and a family member or friend in early recovery? You’ve got all the makings for one big hot mess. Luckily, it’s a mess that can be avoided with some thought and careful planning.
We’ve put together a recipe to help you navigate the holidays safely this year. We encourage you to use this recipe as a starting point for creating some new favorite holiday traditions!
An Ounce of Prevention
This is critical, especially when there isn’t a cure. This year, consider celebrating the holidays virtually. If you are planning to gather with people outside your household, consider these CDC holiday recommendations to reduce your risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19.
Your holiday prevention measures should include avoiding potential relapse triggers. The best way to avoid them is to identify them ahead of time. If you don’t know what they are, you can always ask. You may decide to eliminate the traditional holiday toast or forgo the family rum ball recipe. You might want to host your holiday party earlier in the day.
A Dash of Common Sense
If you are going to spend the holidays with someone in recovery, consider removing substances from the menu. If alcohol is going to be present, don’t make it the focal point, and do make sure there are festive non-alcoholic options.
Check your expectations. The holidays are stressful for most of us. They are even more stressful for those who are rebuilding their lives in early recovery. This is definitely the time to practice compassion and to let some things go including any unreasonable expectations. The meal doesn’t have to be perfect and neither do you or your loved one.
A Pinch of Planning
One of the first things we do at Next Step Recovery is help participants develop a relapse prevention plan. This is critical for maintaining sobriety after leaving the safety of a controlled treatment setting. Life can be challenging, but meeting these challenges is easier when we’ve considered potential pitfalls, planned alternate routes, and established lifelines we can reach out to for support.
Try not to dwell on the past. Instead, focus on being present, open, and hopeful for the future. Take some time in advance to identify some “reset” strategies in the event a conversation or interaction gets tense. Be prepared to change the subject, take a brisk walk, or call a friend or sponsor. You can kindly encourage friends and family members to do the same.
A Cup of Self-Care
This is one of the most important ingredients for a successful holiday season. Unfortunately, it is also the first thing that gets overlooked in the rush. Extra social obligations, shopping, and over-the-top expectations can leave us exhausted by the time the actual holiday comes around.
Be sure to get enough sleep, eat balanced and nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and take time to de-stress throughout the holidays. To the degree possible, continue supportive routines like therapy, attending AA or NA meetings, and connecting with friends and sponsors.
A Helping of Gratitude
Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” makes every situation better. In fact, practicing gratitude has been associated with a host of benefits including greater happiness, improved health, stronger relationships, and resilience in the face of adversity. To realize these benefits, we need to make gratitude an active process where we focus on giving thanks.
You can start by remembering that recovery is hard work for everyone involved. Give thanks for all the effort made, for the courage recovery requires, and for those who have supported us through the process. Give thanks for this day. Recovery reminds us to make the most of it. There are many other reasons to be grateful, and taking a few moments every day to reflect on them can enrich the holidays and the rest of our lives.
If you or someone you know needs extra support through the holidays, we can help. Give us a call at 828-350-9960 or email us at [email protected] to learn more about Next Step Recovery’s addiction treatment and recovery services for men.