Ask the Expert
The holiday season is an exciting time of year filled with shopping, family, and celebrations! However, it can also be a very stressful time filled with financial concerns, fatigue, and often sadness. The holidays are a particularly tough time for those in recovery and their loved ones. Even normal stressors can feel overwhelming, and those in recovery and their families often haven't practiced new coping skills to handle the holiday stress. The risk of relapse is certainly increased during this time. Below are some tips designed for those in recovery, as well as their family members, to help manage the holidays. These tips were developed by Greenbriar Staff in hopes that you will all have a safe, sober, and blessed Holiday season!
Holiday Sobriety Safety Plan
- Avoid places/situations that have the potential to trigger cravings. Go to a meeting!
- If you do have to attend a function, develop an exit plan ahead of time. Develop this plan with the person you are going with and try to take other recovering people with you. Go to a meeting!
- Keep the telephone number for your sponsor and other recovering supports with you at all times. Go to a meeting!
- Contact your recovering supports regularly over the holiday even if you don't feel like you need them. Regular contact with other recovering people will keep your recovery a routine part of your life. Go to a meeting!
- Have a meeting list prepared. You never know when you'll need a meeting, and you might need more meetings over the holidays than you normally do.
- Work with your family/friends to start new activities/traditions that don't involve alcohol or other drugs Go to a meeting!
- Give back! Donate your time! You'd be amazed at how good it feels to help others. Go to a meeting!
- Start and end each day with a gratitude list! Sometimes we become so focused on what we don't have that we overlook the wonderful things right in front of us! Don't forget to go to a meeting!
- Take care of your physical and emotional health. Slow down and don't get overly tired! Go to a meeting!
- Communicate with your friends and family! Tell them what you need to say and tell them how they can help support your recovery! Go to a meeting!
Tips for Family Members to Support a Loved One in Recovery through the Holidays
- Don't pressure the recovering person to participate in activities that are uncomfortable for them. Sometimes just the party atmosphere can be a trigger for relapse.
- If you do have to attend a function where alcohol is present, choose not to drink in order to be supportive. Then the recovering person won't feel singled out as the only person there not drinking.
- Understand that alcohol is a drug too. It is not okay for a recovering person to drink alcohol (EVER!), even if it was not their drug of choice.
- If you live with a person in recovery, you have probably made a lot of sacrifices for them. Now is not the time to expect them to make sacrifices for you. Everyone is stressed out during the holidays as it is! The recovering person, especially if they are new to recovery, may not have developed solid coping skills yet. Don't pressure them if they tell you that they can't do something because it may be a trigger for them.
- People in recovery need to keep close contact with others in recovery. This means that they may need to talk to others frequently. There are some things that you, as a family member, may not be able to help them with. This does not mean that they don't need you. They just need you differently than they need their recovering supports.
- Don't let financial pressures be a trigger. Tell the recovering person that you'd rather have their time, not an expensive gift. Give them suggestions for things you'd like to do together that won't cost a lot of money.
- Suggest starting new traditions in your family so that the recovering person isn't caught up in how they used to celebrate and what they can no longer do.
- Remind them that there are meetings they can attend every day. Offer to help them get to a meeting if necessary.
- Help the recovering person give back. Offer to go with them to volunteer their time with those who need them, like in a nursing home, or homeless shelter. Take part in their recovery.
- Use your own support system to get through this stressful time! Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are great sources of support!
M.A., CCDP Dpl
Chief Operating Officer