Recovery is an ongoing process with many ups and downs, and no time can be quite as challenging as the holidays. According to one study, 88 percent of Americans feel that the holidays are the most stressful time of year. Surely some of this stress extends to people in recovery as well. So how can you prepare for a cheerful and joyous season while protecting your sobriety?
Below are five potential issues that people in recovery should be aware of, along with tips for dealing with them. And if you do find yourself struggling despite your best efforts, keep in mind that recovery centers like Awakenings Treatment Center will be open throughout the holidays.
1. Spending Time with Family
Family is supposed to be your support system, but it doesn’t always work this way. Whether it’s immediate family or extended aunts and uncles, Thanksgiving brings you all together under one roof. And for some people, this can be extremely stressful.
If it’s the immediate family causing you stress, try to remember that they are healing as well. You can’t force this to happen, so give them some grace as they work on their own recovery. Addiction takes a toll on the family, and it’s possible that they need more time. You may also want to bring along a sober friend to take some of the pressure off you.
As for extended family, you may have to keep your distance. Remember that your recovery is your business. You can be polite and respectful without having to engage in uncomfortable conversation. Also be mindful of the discussions happening around you. Steer clear of heated topics and antagonist situations. And don’t hesitate to remove yourself if you feel triggered.
Another word of advice: try to find the good in your family. No one is perfect, after all. If you focus on the good qualities of each family member, you can better appreciate your time with them.
2. Spending Time Alone
Even though family can be stressful, they still are people you can celebrate with. But what happens when you don’t have family nearby? Being alone on a holiday like Thanksgiving can cause you to cope with loneliness in unhealthy ways. Fortunately, you don’t have to be alone.
With a bit of planning and effort, you can find plenty to do on Thanksgiving day. The best approach is to widen your circle. Do you have a neighbor, coworker or friend who you can spend the holidays with? What about the members from your AA group? Ask others about their plans and many will be happy to extend the invite!
If you’re not comfortable doing this, consider putting your time to good use instead. Volunteering at a mission or homeless shelter will help you feel connected while giving you a sense of purpose on the holidays. You can also help out in other ways, such as by offering to walk your neighbor’s dog or bringing a meal to those who are home sick.
3. Being Around Alcohol
One of the biggest Thanksgiving challenges for people in recovery is having to be around alcohol. Blackout Wednesday and Thanksgiving are big drinking holiday days, so it’s very possible that alcohol will be at your Thanksgiving feast.
For example, you might feel pressure to drink from family members who don’t understand the process. Or, you might feel tempted to drink due to holiday-related stress. Either way, having alcohol within reach makes it that much harder.
Managing your sobriety is like a full-time job, so be prepared to put in extra work this holiday season. Some of the ways you can maintain your sobriety at Thanksgiving are:
- Choose wisely. Don’t feel pressured to attend a Thanksgiving dinner at the expense of your recovery. You’ve put in the hard work and need to put your sobriety first. If you have to, spend time with a smaller group that won’t be drinking.
- Talk to your sponsor. If you need someone to talk to, call your sponsor. This way, you don’t have to feel bad about interrupting your friend’s dinner. Your sponsor will be there for you.
- Download a sobriety app. Another way to feel less alone is by downloading a recovery app. Many recovery apps also have built-in support so that you can talk to a real person 24 hours a day.
- Attend a meeting. You may need to increase your meeting attendance during the holidays. There are meetings that happen even on Thanksgiving, so don’t be afraid to pop in one at your leisure.
Sobriety is the Best Gift
These three holiday stressors affect many people in recovery. While it’s easier said than done, your goal is to make your recovery your priority. It’s the best gift you can give yourself and others! By being honest, making smart choices and being open to new traditions, you can enjoy a safe and sober Thanksgiving.