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Using Recovery to Cope With the Holidays

The holidays can be triggering for many people in recovery. You may have negative feelings towards family members (or they to you). You may associate the holidays with negative experiences.  It’s particularly difficult when you have an addiction you’re recovering from.  There are many opportunities to get sidetracked from your recovery plan.

There are many resources and skills you can use to support your recovery from any addiction.  It might mean you will have to do things differently or set boundaries.  This might be unexpected to others. Your friends and family might wonder why you aren’t staying as long to gatherings or question your behavior. Behaving differently by setting limits or taking care of yourself first might be knew to the family. Your family members may talk you out of your plan or think your behavior is strange.

I encourage you to continue to follow through on a recovery plan that works for you. And yes…your plans might appear a little kooky to your family and friends.

Here are some ideas to practice when visiting family:

-Set a start and end time of when you will arrive and leave when visiting difficult family members

-Attend a 12-step meeting before or after visiting family

-Call sponsor or other peers in program for support

-Breathe

-Don’t take negative comments personally; set a limit and use an “I feel…when you” statement

-Follow your morning ritual before attending family (exercise 20 mins, meditation, writing in journal & etc)

-Don’t stay with triggering family members (stay with a friend or hotel)

-Write a gratitude list or affirmations (“I am” statements)

I encourage you to take care of yourself and do what you need to do to make this happen.  Remember your family members want to have the best version of you in their presence.  Do your best to bring that side of yourself, and when you can no longer hold those boundaries, then leave and take care of yourself.  You don’t need to be the hero and subject yourself to situations or people who hurt you just for the sake of the holidays.  You can change your mind or plans at any time.  Give yourself permission to do this if needed.

You might be spending the holidays alone. Being alone during the holidays can be triggering. For many isolation is one of their triggers. There are many things you can involve yourself in to fight the desire to isolate.

Here are some ideas:

-Being of service by feeding the homeless or volunteer at children’s centers or hospitals

-Attend a 12 step holiday function (there are many, you’ll be surprised)

-Accept an invitation if someone invited you for the holidays

-Look at local listings of holiday activities (comedy club events and etc.)

-Invite friends to your home who don’t have family to spend the holidays with

-Join a singing choir group that sing on during the holidays

-Look at your local listings for activities in your community you can involve yourself in

I encourage you to fight urges to isolate.  It’s important to opposite the emotion and do something different this year. You can change the story of the holidays for yourself. Get involved and do something different.  Be adventurous and push yourself even if you don’t want to.

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California Residents Only.

If you feel you may harm yourself?

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800.273.talk (8255).
Toll free 24 hours