With the holiday season upon us, many of us look forward to get-togethers with friends and family, and work celebrations with colleagues. From the smell of holiday cookies baking to hearing carols in stores, we’re primed to be in a holiday mood. But the season can also bring stress. Attending or planning holiday events can be exhausting and we often have high expectations that don’t always align with reality. For someone in early recovery – and their family members – it can be an especially stressful time.
Here are tips for those in early recovery on how to navigate the holidays.
For those in early recovery:
• Isolation is not beneficial for someone in early recovery. Even if you’re not in the mood to attend a holiday party, surround yourself with people who are healthy and sober. Attend a meeting, call a sponsor, or find supportive friends and family.
• Plan ahead for get-togethers. The combination of alcohol and family dynamics can be challenging. Consider an exit strategy or a safety plan if alcohol is being served or if you feel anxious at these events.
• Don’t plan to stay for the entire time if it’s going to make you uncomfortable. It’s fine to bring a friend as sober support or to call someone from a support group if you need to talk.
• Don’t stress if someone offers you a drink. It’s perfectly OK to just say no, without explanation. You can also keep a glass of water in your hand at all times.
• Remember that putting your sobriety first is your priority. You don’t have to accept every invitation. Spend time with sober friends instead, or create a new tradition like volunteering at a soup kitchen.
For families with loved ones in early recovery:
• We encourage you to be supportive and proactive about your family member’s recovery. You can reach to them in a way that lets them know you trust them with their own recovery but that you are there for them if needed. You don’t want to be controlling. Make them feel included in plans and if you know they are struggling, suggest they attend a meeting or call a sponsor.
• If you’ll be seeing relatives who don’t know your family member has just completed treatment, prepare beforehand as to who will communicate the information in a way your family member is comfortable.
• Remember to also take care of yourself this time of year. You may want to attend your own meeting to stay connected with other families with similar experiences. It will help to be around people who understand what you’re going through.
It’s important for individuals and families in early recovery to keep open communication with each other so everyone can enjoy the holidays together. Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!
Erin Goodhart, Director of Women’s Services
Caron Treatment Centers