8 Steps to Surviving the Holidays in Recovery

It’s that time of year again – the Holiday season is here once more. With it comes mixed emotions; some good and some not so good. Due to the emotional nature of the Holiday Season, it is normal for anyone in addiction recovery to experience a wide range of feelings as they spend time celebrating with family and friends. How does a person in addiction recovery keep their program strong during this time? How can one avoid relapse and come out on the other side clean and sober?

Here at the Taylor Recovery Center in Houston we make it our mission to equip our clients with the tools necessary to successfully journey through the Holidays and beyond with a strong grip on their recovery from addiction. The following information is directed to anyone who is searching for a beneficial perspective in protecting their sobriety during the Holiday Season.

Here are 8 helpful ways to successfully make it through the Holiday Season clean and sober:

1. Do you have a plan in place to practice your addiction recovery program and stay connected to a sober network when you arrive at your destination for the Holidays? A common mistake made by those going home for the Holidays is not having a strong plan or not carrying their plan into the Holiday Season. This plan can include:

  • Finding and attending 12 step meetings close to home.
  • Having several sober peers that can be contacted daily.
  • Maintaining contact with your 12-step sponsor and recovery community.
  • Continuing to engage in the personal practices you have been using such as prayer, meditation, journaling, yoga, exercise, taking a nightly inventory or anything else that has been beneficial to your addiction recovery efforts.

Make sure to stay connected and do the things that are bringing you success!

2. Do you have an escape plan ready? If a situation arises that makes your feel uncomfortable or jeopardizes your addiction recovery, make sure to have a way out. Either take your own car, have a taxi or Uber app ready for an emergency. Communicate with your ride; if things don’t feel right you might excuse yourself and need a ride home. Set boundaries and remember you are in control!

3. Feeling uncomfortable around family and friends while you are first getting clean and sober or if you are currently in treatment is NORMAL. In fact, there are many people not in addiction recovery who, because of family issues in the past, feel tension at family get-togethers over the Holidays. Basically, it can be totally normal to feel some level of tension or discomfort during the Holidays, whether you are or are not in addiction recovery.

Don’t let these emotions lead to thoughts of wanting to escape through using. Try “running the tape through,” meaning “What will happen if I choose to drink and use?” Can you envision where you will be if you start drinking or using? Can you bring to mind all the hard work and progress you have made so far in your addiction recovery? We are all too familiar with the treacherous places that relapsing can take us.

Be aware of the consequences of your use, and don’t choose to lose the progress you have been working so hard to make! Remember , the addiction recovery process does not necessarily end once you are no longer residing at a rehabilitation facility. It can sometimes be difficult to transition back into life outside the sober living community. That is why it helps to focus on all the hard work that has gone into your recovery, and what the consequences might be to throw that away.

4. Be prepared for the hard questions, such as:

  • “What have you been up to?
  • “What’s new in your life?”
  • “How have you been?”

We suggest that your response be guided by this thought: you are in control of the conversation. How much information you want to share about your life is up to you. You may be used to talking a lot about personal issues while you are in a sober living program, but no one is making you “tell all” or “spill the beans.” You are under no obligation to share any information regarding your addiction recovery process if you don’t want to.

Simple answers such as “I am doing well; I have been working on reshaping my life lately” can work just fine. In some situations, stating a simple answer may be best, while in other situations a more revealing answer may be appropriate. Whether you choose to reveal little or much remember this: There is absolutely nothing shameful about rebuilding your life. You are doing a great thing by reshaping your life, and you should take pride in it!

Here is another tip: often the way we share what is taking place in our lives, or the confidence in which we present ourselves, not only benefits our self-esteem but it can have a positive impact on others. Remember, you are courageously reshaping your life, take pride in the direction you are going!

5. Remember, it’s acceptable to excuse yourself if you are feeling uncomfortable. Take a walk, go to your room to read, call a friend, take the dog out for a walk, go watch TV in another room. Give yourself permission to excuse yourself for the sake of your own well-being and to protect your sobriety.

6. You may have family and friends who continue to drink or use despite knowing of your choice to quit. Our suggestion to you is to first avoid situations where heavy drinking is taking place.

If you are aware that drinking is the “main point” of the gathering, avoid the situation. On a similar note, any situation where illicit substances are being used needs to be avoided too. There will be some situations where casual, responsible drinking is taking place.  In these situations, where you may be asked if you want a drink, we suggest that you set firm boundaries from the start. “No thank you, I do not drink”, or “I am not a drinker, but I am having a good time” could be beneficial. We suggest that you be firm yet cordial when asked.

7. One way of strengthening your ability to say no is to engage in role-playing with peers prior to leaving for your Holiday. Practicing how you will say no and the situations you may experience will boost your confidence if you are presented with an invitation to drink. Remember: be firm with your answer but be cordial as well. Be confident in your decision to say no.

8. Not everyone is going to understand why you are trying to get sober or why you had to stop drinking or using. Don’t let the misunderstandings of those close to you influence your decision to stay sober. Remember, you are getting sober for you, not other people. The new life you have chosen needs to be first appreciated by you; this is most important! Don’t let misunderstandings or lack of praise by those close to you derail from your journey to your new life in addiction recovery!

We at the Taylor Recovery Center want to wish you Happy Holidays. This Holiday Season we celebrate the gift of recovery and the hard work and progress the members of our sober living community and all people in addiction recovery have made towards recreating their lives. We encourage you to continue strong in your recovery, enjoy this season and continue forging ahead in reshaping your life clean and sober!