Sober Holidays Tip #12 Don’t romance the drink or drug.If everyone starts talking about the “good old days,” leave the room. You don’t want to start thinking about your drinking or using days. That can lead to preoccupation and obsession, and then to cravings. Keep your focus on your life right now, your life in recovery.
The winter holidays demand great patience, calmness, inner peace, wisdom and compassion. For those of us who are not saints – let’s look at how to stay sober (and mostly calm) during the holidays.
Staying Sober – and Happy – During the Holidays
Following, some great recommendations on staying sober and happy during the holidays from the revised and updated second edition of The Recovery Book.
The Recovery Book is the bible of addiction recovery. Written for the 23 million Americans struggling with alcohol and drugs, it is “a clear, accurate, and comprehensive resource—for patients, their families, and helping professionals” (Anthony B. Radcliffe, M.D., former president, American Society of Addiction Medicine).
Sober Holidays Tip #1: Remind yourself every single morning how good it feels to be sober (and how great it will feel come January). Plant that thought in your mind right now, and think about it every morning. Stick a note on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself to think about it every day.
Sober Holidays Tip #2: Keep your expectations realistic, so you don’t set yourself up for an emotional letdown. Getting sober doesn’t mean life is instantly perfect. Other people in your life probably haven’t changed, and many of the conflicts that crop up at family reunions will doubtless crop up again. Accept it, roll with the punches, and rein in the urge to manipulate everything and everyone. It will be enough for you to take care of and control yourself.
Sober Holidays Tip #3: Plan activities other than sitting around and gabbing. In many families, getting together for the holidays means sitting around and drinking. Investigate other options now. Movies, museums, holiday concerts, skating, walks, sledding, sports events can all help fill the time and limit stress. If weather keeps you inside, suggest activities that will keep everyone busy and focused, such as decorating holiday cookies, board games, or old movies.
Sober Holidays Tip #4: Limit the amount of time you spend with relatives who make you crazy. If everyone is gathering for the holiday, including your brother who drinks like a fish, plan on an overlap of just a day or two. If he arrives on Christmas Day and stays a week, you can arrive a couple of days before Christmas, help your hosts prepare, enjoy a quiet Christmas Eve, and leave the next day.
Sober Holidays Tip #5: If you’re traveling, go to meetings wherever you are. Find a meeting long before you get there. This will give you the booster support shot you’ll almost certainly need—the chance to say, “Sure, I love my family, but sometimes they drive me up the wall,” or to talk about whatever else it is that almost drives you to drink.
Sober Holidays Tip #6: If the holidays mean visiting your old hometown, take time to see old friends you enjoy; avoid those you used to drink or use drugs with. Make plans now for how you’ll occupy your time while there, so you don’t find yourself with time to kill and fleeting thoughts of visiting the people who are still drinking or using.
Sober Holidays Tip #7: Remember what Recovery Zone you’re in. If you’re following the Recovery Zone System, remember where you are in recovery. If you’re in early recovery, the Red Zone, you are bound to be a bit shaky. Don’t push yourself or leave yourself open to temptation. It’s okay to have a quiet holiday season.
Sober Holidays Tip #8 Do a Recovery Zone ReCheck before the holidays get started. Think about the events coming up in the next few weeks. What situations could possibly set you on the road toward relapse? Seeing your ex-husband at a party? Having a fight with your mom? Having dinner with friends who drink? Make a plan now for how you will deal with these events; maybe you’ll go to some extra meetings before you travel, and plan to call your sponsor or a fellowship friend if anything does happen. Or maybe you’ll investigate online meetings now, before anything happens, so you can go to a meeting at a moment’s notice. Remember, it’s okay to retreat to an earlier Recovery Zone for a few weeks.
Sober Holidays Tip #9: If you’re flying and feeling vulnerable, ask for help. Planes don’t have “no alcohol” sections, so the person right next to you might order something alcoholic. What do you do? Ideally, fly with someone you know, someone who knows you are in recovery and will avoid drinking during the trip. If you’re flying alone and feeling vulnerable, explain your situation to the flight attendant. Ask if he can help you change your seat if anyone next to you orders anything stronger than tomato juice. Swapping seats is almost always possible. If you do get stuck next to a drinker, close your eyes and meditate. Put your headphones on and zone out to music or a meditation recording, or watch the movie. If you have Wi-Fi on the plane, contact a friend in recovery for support. Another idea: If you worry you’ll be tempted to stop at a bar on the way to the airport or inside the terminal, have a friend or your sponsor drop you off at the airport and then stay in touch with you via phone, text or video chat until you get on your plane and the cabin door is shut.
Sober Holidays Tip #10:Plan your own celebrations. If you aren’t going traveling for the holidays, plan to celebrate with local AA or NA friends. If you haven’t been invited, do the inviting yourself. Follow old family traditions or start some of your own.
Sober Holidays Tip #11: Take it easy! Get plenty of rest, watch what you eat, get your usual exercise, and take time for meditation. Maintain your recovery routine as much as possible.
Sober Holidays Tip #12 Don’t romance the drink or drug. If everyone starts talking about the “good old days,” leave the room. You don’t want to start thinking about your drinking or using days. That can lead to preoccupation and obsession, and then to cravings. Keep your focus on your life right now, your life in recovery.
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