To some extent for nearly everyone, the holidays are a stressful time; plain and simple.
What is supposed to be a time dedicated to family, community, and general peace and harmony quickly becomes a time of anxiety around finding the perfect gift, getting the best deal, cooking the best meal, missing family members or even finding ways to avoid family members in general. These high expectations we sometimes set for ourselves can at times set us up for failure right from the get-go.
For those of us in recovery, we are more than well acquainted with the stress of the holidays, as it at times has the potential to threaten a relapse.
We often times don’t like to talk about it, but a lot of people go out during the holidays. The mixture of general stress and the prevalence of people drinking and/or using around them often times has the potential to trigger them into old thought patterns, and they search for an old coping mechanism.
It is important to recognize these feelings, and it is important to remember what is at stake in your recovery. We at Oregon Trail Recovery offer up in this article some tried and true healthy coping mechanisms which will help you get through them clean and sober.
- 12 Step Based Meetings/Holiday Events: We cannot stress enough the importance which community has upon someone’s own recovery. One of the most common ways that our clients have been able to do that is to become involved in 12 Step Based Recovery. Within the rooms of NA and AA, the holidays are a wonderful time to be present both in mind and body. Members share their experience, strength, and hope within the regular meetings and it is not uncommon that meeting halls will host holiday events such as Thanksgiving potlucks or Christmas parties. Furthermore, on the day these exact holidays fall on, one would be able to attend marathon meetings; which are meetings that are held back to back throughout a 24-hour period. So, if you need to get to a meeting on one of these trying days, there is one available.
- Being Conscious of Self Care: While it is first and foremost the most important thing to stay clean and sober, it is also important to maintain your mental and physical health by consuming healthy foods which are rich in nutrients and to exercise regularly. A morning walk can do wonders for the mind, for example. People often like to cope with food during the holidays, which there usually is an abundance of around. Being conscious of what you are intaking and what you are putting out can be the difference between a positive and negative mindset any day of the week.
- Seeking Your Spirituality: In keeping with one’s own physical and mental health, it is also important to rest on a connection of spirituality. Many find this in religious services, or brief talks with their spiritual advisor. Many find this spiritual connection with nature by a brisk winter walk through the woods or a city park. Many still find this connection through an abstinent based recovery meeting, such as AA or Refuge Recovery. Whichever avenue you choose to pursue, we urge you not to be shy from seeking it out when the stress of the holidays starts to become too much to bear.
- Understanding Your Vulnerability and Safety: Essentially, understanding your surroundings can be an important tool for you to use. For instance, if you are invited to a holiday party which you know there will be drinking and drug use at, understand where your vulnerabilities are and understand your need for safety in your recovery. It is perfectly acceptable to not go to this party. If you do find yourself going, it is important to have a support network of accountability to reach out to, either physically with you or able to be reached immediately by phone.
- Talk About It, Talk About It, Talk About It: We can never understand a problem or have others understand it if we do not voice our concerns. Open communication is absolutely crucial. Talking about what we are going through during this time with our loved ones and what we believe we need to keep our recovery intact may offer some surprising results to us. We may become surprised how understanding and to open our loved ones are to our struggles, even if they are not in recovery themselves.
There are several other methods that can be employed for staying clean during the holidays.
It really all comes down to the ability to be open to other people. Like it was stated in the last listed method, we might be surprised at the results.
Everyone can be subjected to being stressed during the holidays, and talking about those stressors have the ability to open up an avenue for which the solution can be found. Furthermore, we might find that our loved ones are not only grateful that we were open about these issues with them, they are also so grateful that we are a part of their lives again. And sometimes, to be present, in both body, mind, and spirit, is the greatest present of all of them.
We at Oregon Trail Recovery wish everyone a clean, sober and Happy Holidays.
– J. Dalton Williams BA
Oregon Trail Recovery