The holidays might mean parties for hosting as well as marshmallows for roasting, but they can also pose a hardship for those in recovery, especially for those in the early stages of the process. The combined stresses of parties, traveling, shopping, finances, and expectations can tempt people into relapsing. At Grace Recovery, a brand-new state-of-the-art addiction treatment program located in Hollywood, California, and serving the entire Los Angeles area, we have compiled this list of suggestions for keeping you safe and sober during the holidays.
1. Plan ahead.
One of the benefits of holiday get-togethers is that nearly all of them are scheduled. This will permit you to know what is coming up and prepare for them accordingly. It’s easy to have a game plan ready when you can anticipate what will happen during a party, and skip it if you think the temptation to drink or take drugs will be too great. Rest assured that even if you do skip a party you can be reasonably sure that you could attend next-year’s festivities after you get a year of recovery under your belt. And speaking of planning, prepare yourself ahead of time by talking yourself up before you head to a party. That way you will be prepared for whatever you encounter once you get there.
2. There’s safety in numbers.
If you decide to attend a party or other event, consider taking a sober friend with you to help keep you sane. Ideally, take someone with you who is aware of your situation and who will encourage you to stick with your recovery plan. Whether you take a friend with you or not, you can also call a friend or sponsor to check in when the event is over. And when someone does confront you with drugs or alcohol, be ready with a defense not to partake.
3. Know your limits.
There is almost always a social pressure at parties and other events to convince you to drink. You can minimize this pressure by deciding ahead of time how long you will stay at an event. Further, know in advance not only when, but how you plan to leave an event when you are finished. And if you anticipate having a tough time, bring your own car so you can dictate when it’s time for you to leave.
4. Know and avoid your triggers.
Keep in mind your triggers–those people, places, and situations–that cause you to drink or take drugs, and avoid them. For example, if certain people cause you to falter, simply avoid them or spend minimal time with them, especially when they start encouraging you to drink or take drugs. This is especially true if you are already experiencing your own mood reactions such as loneliness, anger, hunger, and tiredness. These internal situations can cause someone to buckle when confronted by tempting people or situations.
5. Stay occupied.
When you get to a party or other gathering, what do you plan on doing? Do you plan to engage in conversations? Perhaps eat dinner? Stay mindful of what you are doing since this will prevent you from doing something else, often without even thinking about it. Also, people will be less likely to offer you a drink if you are busy talking with someone or taking part in another activity. Another good strategy for dealing with those who want you to drink or take drugs is to already keep a drink (nonalcoholic, of course) in your hands. You can take a drink if you already have one, can you? Further, many people will naturally assume that you are already drinking if you have a full glass in your hands.
6. Case the joint beforehand.
When you receive an invite, ask the host whether there will be alcohol or those using drugs at the event. This way you will know whether to accept an invitation or avoid certain people who might cause you to stumble. If you are concerned that someone will want to discuss drinking or drugs, or even rehab, stay focused on something else and avoid the discussion entirely. Remember, nobody has the right to force you to drink or take drugs, and those who do are not your friends.
7. Focus on the positive.
There are always plenty of things associated with the holidays that have nothing to do with drugs and alcohol. Why not focus on these things? These might include activities such as baking and other cooking, playing holiday games, and much more.
8. Be of service.
The holidays are full of opportunities to find fulfillment in giving of yourself. By taking your mind off of drinking and drugs, you can concentrate on providing support to others. This not only benefits other people by paying forward, but it also builds your own strength as well.