Heyl Family PracticeThe holiday season can be a challenging time for individuals in recovery from substance use disorders. The parties, gatherings, and different memories and feelings associated with the holiday season can make it difficult to stay focused on recovery. However, navigating this period is possible by creating new and healthy holiday traditions.

Here at Greenbriar, we understand how this time of year can be a challenge. That's why we're here to support you with practical strategies not just to make it through the holidays but to thrive and keep your recovery intact.

Here are some strategies and tips to help you celebrate the holidays in recovery.

1. Have a Strategy

When attending social events, it's important to have a plan, especially if there's a chance of being offered drugs or alcohol. Before attending, decide how you'll respond if someone offers you a substance. Your response can be as simple as saying 'no, thank you' or explaining your journey of recovery. Learn to say 'no.' Having a friend or family member who knows about your recovery and can support you at the event is helpful. Be mindful of your triggers - certain people, places, or situations that might activate cravings. If things get overwhelming, have an exit plan ready. Always prioritize your well-being.

2. Surround Yourself with Support

During the holiday season, it's important to have a strong support system. This can include friends or family who provide emotional support and help you navigate situations where there may be pressure to use substances. You can also rely on members of your support group who understand your journey and challenges firsthand. Having a sponsor is also beneficial, as they can offer guidance based on their own experiences. If you need professional strategies or a safe space to discuss your feelings, consider seeing a therapist.

3. Address Your Triggers

The holiday season can bring about unexpected challenges, triggers, or cravings, even if you've been in recovery for a long time. To effectively handle these triggers, it's important first to recognize them. Triggers can be tied to certain individuals, places, or events. Once you've identified them, develop coping mechanisms such as meditation or talking to someone you trust. It's helpful to have a specific plan for when you encounter a trigger, which could involve avoiding it, using a coping technique, or seeking support from your network. Remember, professional help is always an option if things become too challenging.

4. Create New Traditions

During the holiday season, it is a chance to start fresh and establish new traditions that align with your recovery journey. It's an opportunity to reshape your celebration in a way that supports your well-being. Instead of forgetting the past, focus on building upon it. Whether finding new ways to celebrate with loved ones, starting a gratitude journal, or volunteering, creating new traditions can bring meaning and positivity to the holidays. To make this season joyful and supportive of your progress, prioritize experiences that align with your recovery.

5. Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting clear and healthy boundaries is fundamental during the holiday season. This means understanding your limits and communicating them effectively to those around you. While it's natural to want to connect with loved ones during this time, ensuring that these interactions are positive and conducive to your recovery is also essential. If certain situations or people pose a risk or bring discomfort, it's okay to distance yourself or seek alternative ways to celebrate. Your recovery is the most important thing, and setting boundaries is a way to protect it.

6. Participate in Holiday Activities

Engaging in holiday activities can be a great way to immerse yourself in the festive spirit while also supporting your recovery. However, it's essential to choose activities that align with your well-being. This can include attending recovery-friendly events, participating in community service, or simply enjoying the holiday decorations around your neighborhood. Celebrate the season joyfully and respectfully of your journey. This ensures that you can enjoy the festivities while maintaining the progress you've made in your recovery.

7. Manage Your Expectations

To effectively deal with the holiday season while in recovery, you must manage your own and others' expectations. When it comes to your own expectations, be kind to yourself and recognize that recovery is a journey with ups and downs. Avoid setting unrealistic goals and focus on acknowledging the progress you've made. When dealing with others, keep in mind that not everyone is on the same recovery path or fully understands your challenges. Instead of expecting specific reactions or outcomes, communicate your feelings and needs clearly. Lastly, remember that things may not always go as planned during the holidays. Embrace the present and create new traditions that support your recovery. Managing expectations is about prioritizing well-being and recovery without diminishing your aspirations.

8. Do Not Overcommit

Invitations to social events can be abundant over the holiday season. However, it's important to remember that you're not obligated to attend every gathering. Attending too many events can be mentally and emotionally exhausting and may increase the risk of triggers or relapses, especially if alcohol or other potential triggers are present. It's crucial to choose events wisely in order to avoid unnecessary exposure. Always prioritize your well-being and spend quality time with those who understand and support your recovery. It's perfectly acceptable to decline an event if it seems detrimental to your recovery. Remember, the journey is about prioritizing your health and happiness.

9. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

During festive times, it's common to compare ourselves to others, which can lead to feelings of failure. However, it's important to remember that everyone's recovery journey is unique, with its own set of challenges and victories. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your own path and the progress you've made. Avoid setting unrealistic standards based on others, and be kind to yourself. Each person has their own strengths and areas for growth. The key is prioritizing personal improvement and growth rather than comparing yourself to others. A healthy perspective only compares yourself to your past self, recognizing your steps toward self-improvement.

10. Make Self-Care a Priority

Taking care of yourself is crucial for recovery, especially during the holiday season. This means attending recovery meetings for support, practicing spirituality through meditation or prayer, and staying connected with your support group. Don't forget to exercise regularly to boost your mood and reduce stress. Prioritize a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and stay hydrated. Find moments for quiet reflection every day to recharge. Remember, self-care is not indulgent but necessary for recovery.

Greenbriar in Pittsburgh is Your Recovery Partner

The holiday season can be challenging for those in recovery. However, with proper preparation and support, it's possible to navigate these challenges successfully. To have a positive experience, it's important to have a clear strategy and surround yourself with supportive people. 

Address triggers proactively, create new traditions, set boundaries, manage expectations, and prioritize self-care. Every proactive decision you make is a step toward ensuring enjoyable holidays that support your recovery journey. Make choices that help you thrive during this festive period.

If you're seeking support on your recovery journey, remember that Greenbriar Treatment Center is here for you. Reach out to us today, and let's face this path together.