Being in recovery can be particularly difficult during the holiday season. Whether or not you choose to celebrate holidays personally, work parties, celebrations, and other events are everywhere. Television commercials are filled with families gathered together, and most importantly, alcohol and other substances are used more commonly and frequently than at any other time of the year. All of these events, sights, sounds and commitments can be triggers when you are in recovery.
It is a time full of extra social commitments, shopping, gift-giving, as well as the traffic and other stressors those activities create. This can lead to taking less time for yourself, missing out on daily recovery routines, and ultimately leading to a relapse. The holidays can be full of triggers, so being prepared is crucial to your well-being.
Identifying Potential Triggers
In recovery, there are many people, places, events, memories, smells, sounds, and more that can trigger a relapse. The same is true for trauma, which can trigger a relapse as well. There is an overwhelmingly large number of triggers during the holiday season due to stress and emotional overload, both positive and negative. Each person will have their own specific list of triggering experiences, but below are some common holiday triggers:
- Family - gatherings can be incredibly triggering, from family members who drink or use other substances to family members who are or were abusive or a source of trauma.
- Places - traveling or even visiting places specific to the holidays may bring back memories or otherwise create a response that challenges your recovery.
- Friends - your former friends in substance use may not be around most of the time but may visit for the holidays and expect you to imbibe with them like before.
- Work parties or other social events - the pressure to drink at work or other parties can be socially overwhelming, especially if others know you used to drink.
- Holiday traditions - certain holiday traditions may bring with them sensory triggers such as smells, sights, sounds, and more that your brain unconsciously associates with your former substance use.
- Stress - one of the biggest triggers year-round is stress, but the holidays bring increased levels of stress, which can wear down your emotional strength and lower your recovery barriers
Making a Holiday Relapse Prevention Plan
Be prepared to avoid the places and events where you may be tempted to drink as much as possible. Also, be prepared with a response at any time should you be offered any substances. Anticipating the other situations that could be particularly stressful or triggering will help you make your holiday relapse prevention plan. Your plan could include these and other helpful ideas:
- Stress management - make plans to budget your time, energy, finances, and other resources so that you do not get overwhelmed.
- Therapy - scheduling extra therapy appointments and being sure to keep them will help you manage the additional stressors of the holiday season.
- Relapse prevention techniques - brush up on all of your relapse prevention techniques from treatment to help you manage cravings or triggers.
- Attend support meetings - do not allow anything to come in the way of your support meetings.
- Reach out to your support network - stay in touch with family, friends, sponsors, community members, and others who you can lean on at this time.
Remind yourself that no holiday tradition, gift, or event is worth more than your recovery. Taking good care of yourself should be your highest priority.
Daily Habits to Reinforce Your Recovery
The holidays may be hectic, but they are also one of the most critical times to maintain daily habits for your recovery, including:
- Nutrition - Don't deny yourself any food or restrict. Allow yourself to feast.
- Sleep hygiene - be sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night and practice regular sleep habits.
- Self-care - you are worth it, so do something for at least 30 minutes for yourself every single day that makes you feel alive.
- Mindfulness meditation - scheduling time for this daily will help you have peace during this busy time.
Being Still – The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself
Amongst the distractions of everything around you, make time to be still every single day. Practice mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, or make a plan to simply sit still and be with yourself. Clearing all of the distractions and being comfortable with yourself is one of the very best ways to keep the triggers away. Time with yourself is time for yourself, showing your continued love and commitment to yourself and your healing. Embodying peace from stillness can be the very best gift you give this holiday season.
You know that the holidays will be filled with stressful situations and could wear you down, leaving you vulnerable to relapse. Prepare to avoid holiday triggers and have a plan to get through them when they come. Taking care of yourself and being willing to take time for yourself every day will help you maintain your recovery this holiday season. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women is a place to find your way again this holiday season. Within our program, we help you to find peace in recovery and be prepared for a new year. Whether you are an entrepreneur, working professional, housewife, on active military duty, or whatever path you have chosen, we welcome women at The Ho Tai Way to heal from substance abuse. Call (714) 581-3974 to learn more about our Costa Mesa, California facility. We offer a loving, non-judgmental refuge for women to heal mind, body, and spirit, and to become empowered again.