Recovery at Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and for many, the excitement is building. Yet, for those suffering with addiction, as well as those in recovery, the festive season can be an exceptionally difficult time. Remaining sober can be especially challenging during Christmas with family get-togethers, parties and other social occasions. Traditionally, Christmas is meant to be a time of inclusion, but the Irish focus on alcohol makes it difficult for any non-drinkers and people trying to live their best sober life.

Here in Ireland, Alcohol is a feature of so many social situations, and our culture makes it tough to opt out when everyone else is sharing a bottle of vino or enjoying a pint. Telling your social circle that you no longer drink is sometimes harder than not drinking in the first place. Sobriety is so much more than a decision about your physical health and emotional well-being, it has a huge effect on your social life. But your true friends will understand and be there for you.

With Christmas being such a challenging time for anyone in recovery or trying to abstain from using substances, we decided to put together a list of do’s and don’ts to help you get through the festive season.

Things you should try TO DO over the festive season:

  • Ensure that you have telephone numbers for people who can support you
  • Try to get to as many meetings as possible
  • Use the Fellowship, meetings and your sponsor
  • Avoid ‘wet’ places and parties
  • Take control of the situation – don’t invite people to you
  • Be good to yourself. Allow yourself some treats
  • Keep in touch with safe friends/family/support
  • Keep balance and variety in your activities: TV, exercise, relaxation, walks in the fresh air
  • Plan ahead by making a relapse/prevention plan
  • Take the risk and join in the fun, but, give yourself a get-out clause for potentially difficult situations such as family parties.
  • Speak to someone “Safe” before you go to a gathering and when you return from it
  • Be clear and unapologetic with statements you make such as “I am not drinking alcohol, thanks, but I’d love lemonade” or “I won’t have that to eat I’m just after eating, but thanks anyway” or “I’m not gambling at the moment.”

Things you should try NOT TO DO over the festive season:

  • Don’t hide away and isolate
  • Don’t stagnate in front of the TV
  • Don’t project
  • Don’t become complacent or procrastinate
  • Don’t go somewhere without a ‘get-out clause’, make it easy to leave a difficult situation

Things to REMEMBER over the festive season

Firstly, it’s important to manage your expectations over Christmas. It’s vital you set realistic expectations of both yourself and others during this period, and consider how you will react if the reality does not match your expectations. It’s very important not to set the bar too high with your expectations. You may be setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. Keeping your expectations lower and more realistic can be useful for many reasons. It means you will be less likely to be disappointed, will feel less pressure yourself and reduce the pressure on others. Remember also that you can’t control someone else’s behaviour, only your own.

Secondly, make sure you have fun and enjoy yourself over the festive period. Recovery is to be enjoyed; you can still have a good time. Concentrate on all you have gained by not drinking, using or gambling, rather than what you’re missing out on. Focus on the gratitude for being clean, sober and abstaining, and the strength it has taken to get to this point.

Another thing to remember is to treat yourself! You deserve it! Buy yourself something nice for Christmas as a reward for your hard work to get to where you are today. One word of warning however, January can be a potential relapse time for those in recovery in the lull following the festivities. It’s important to bare this in mind and be prepared as best you can.

Finally, remember that Christmas Day is just another 24-hour period. Stay in the moment and live one day at a time. Never mind about what happened or what could happen. Enjoy today. Live today. Celebrate your sobriety. From all of us at Tabor Group, we wish you a safe and sober festive season.