The holiday season can be a time filled with celebration, meaningful connections and joyful events shared with family and friends. If you are in recovery from substances such as alcohol, opiates or other drugs this season can also be filled with profound stress. Being around friends and family can bring on emotional distress, as well as anticipated feelings of uncertainty.
We understand the unique challenges of balancing life choices with the critical importance of your recovery goals. We also understand that the first thing you put ahead of your recovery will be the next thing you risk losing. During the season of joy and gift giving, let your most precious gift be the gift of recovery – this is a gift you give to yourself as well as the ones you love.
We suggest planning ahead, and if necessary, limiting your time at family events, as well as other social celebrations. If possible, bring a sober friend with you. Remember that local recovery support groups, including 12-step meetings, have holiday marathon meetings, to make sure you can access that extra needed support.
Finally, the holiday seasons are always a good time to focus on gratitude, extend a loving hand to someone in need, be a good listener, count your blessings, and allow time for relaxation, reflection and spiritual renewal as you prepare your heart and mind for another wonderful year in recovery.
There are so many reasons to consider that summertime may be the best time of the year. Gathering with friends and family, enjoying the beach, and summer vacations can also be challenging for people in recovery, especially early recovery when it is easier to experience relapse triggers in these pleasurable situations. Here are some suggestions for enjoying a summer and protecting your recovery.
- Always plan ahead—If you know that you will be attending a party, barbecue, or other event that may be triggering, have an exit plan in place. Consider bringing your preferred non-alcoholic beverage and healthy snacks. Drive your own car so that you won’t get stuck there longer than you want to or bring a sober friend along for support. If you are going on vacation, consider researching some self-help meetings that are available in the area, or use online meeting to help you keep your focus on recovery.
- 2. Enjoy the outdoors—Summer is a wonderful time of year to enjoy healthy outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, camping and swimming. Exercise is a great recovery tool, and fresh air and warm weather can provide a quick and easy boost to your mood.
- Remember Self-Care—In addition to exercise, make sure that you get plenty of sleep and eat well. Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally makes it easier to make healthy choices and stay focused on your recovery goals. Sometimes it’s smart to say no to social events if you are feeling overwhelmed or especially vulnerable. Make sure you plan time for healthy relaxation.
- Practice stress reduction practices – Early recovery can be an especially stressful time. Taking time for yourself, and participating in practices such as meditation, yoga, journaling, or even just quiet walks can help you build strength and resilience that you can call upon, especially during stressful times. Be careful not to over plan or schedule yourself too heavily. Take time to just enjoy each day.
- Be honest with yourself and others – If you are feeling uncomfortable in any situation, feel it and own it. If you need to leave, leave. Don’t hesitate to tell others how you are feeling and why you feel that way. Sober support may be a text or phone call away – identify who’s in your corner and stay connected to your support.
- Keep focused on your goals—Recovery happens when we work for it – this means that although temptations will arise we can use our support and our self-care to keep focused on our long-term goals. It is also important to plan for how you will celebrate your accomplishments. Part of planning ahead is recognizing when to make sacrifices that are well worth it and when to celebrate your success at living a fulfilling and meaningful life.
- Practice, practice, practice – As you practice these new and healthy behaviors you will develop new habits that replace old, destructive ones. The more you practice new habits the more they will become second nature and contribute positively to one’s safety and wellness.