According to Sheryl Rahme founder, director at Changes Addiction Rehab in Northcliff, alcohol is commonly associated with relaxing, socialising, connecting, and having fun in our society.
She goes on to explain that it is easy to feel lonely in a group of people. People in early recovery might use poor excuses to stop working on their recovery. "No one will know if I have just one, 'I can take a break from meetings and pick it up again in January."
“We say that recovery doesn’t take a vacation or break,” said the addiction expert.
1. Be aware of potential triggers
There are a lot of potentially strong triggers during the "silly season." When a trigger is present, it might set off automatic thoughts and cravings that intensify with justifications and eventually result in a relapse.
There are some common triggers as well as some that are particular to each individual.
It’s important to eat regularly, get enough sleep, ensure you stay connected to others, deal with anger appropriately and take care of yourself if you start to feel sick.
There are myriad other triggers that only you can identify. However, you must be aware of your unique triggers and make an effort to avoid them. Don't, for instance, buy cigarettes from the bottle store or hang out with friends that you used to use drugs or drink with.
2. Keep a recovery routine
Addiction does not take a break over the holiday season so why should your recovery?
Maintain your recovery schedule during the holiday season. Continue attending your regular 12-step meetings, and if you travel, search into groups in your destination. Regularly attend online meetings if there are no in-person ones.
Continue with all the other recovery activities you have become accustomed to including
daily meditation, step work, checking in with your sponsor, and reading recovery literature or
whatever else has become part of your daily practice.
3. Connect with other people in recovery
“Surround yourself with healthy, sober-minded, and supportive people,” advises, Rahme.
One of the best ways to safeguard your recovery is to keep connected to other people in
recovery. If you are concerned about being triggered at a particular event, take a sober
friend with you. A recovery friend will be able to understand what you are going through
and will be best able to support you.
4. Have an exit plan
For any situation, you find yourself in these holidays, have a well-thought-out exit plan. If you
are going to a get-together, make sure you park somewhere where it will be easy for you to
leave quickly. If you don’t have your transport then arrange transport so that you can leave when you want to.
You must be able to leave a situation if you are triggered in any way.
5. Don’t drink zero alcoholic drinks
It may be tempting to drink zero alcohol to fit in or feel ‘normal’. However, these drinks are incredibly dangerous for people with an addiction. They have a realistic alcoholic flavor, which might act as a strong trigger for your brain to interpret them as alcoholic beverages. This could cause your brain to start craving actual alcohol, which could result in an unintended relapse.
6. Talk and communicate
The one constant in recovery is to talk about what’s going on. This includes our feelings and thoughts, especially, if we have thoughts of using or are experiencing cravings.
Sharing our struggles is a really good method to safeguard our healing. The desire to use or consume alcohol frequently disappears upon exposure. However, you are more likely to act on these thoughts if you don't share them.
Communicate with a trusted family member, your sponsor, or other friends in recovery.
7. Try something new
Boredom is a trigger faced by many, especially once the business of the year slows down. Keep busy to avoid boredom and try new and exciting activities. Of course, it is important to choose activities that you can enjoy sober such as bowling or a moonlit walk along the beach.
8. Ask for the family to have sober events
This might seem controversial but if your family is willing to sacrifice alcohol temporarily, it is
encouraged. Having sober events is a very helpful way of keeping you safe over the festive
“By finding it essential to drink during this time, you’re showing your addicted loved, or are implying, that fun and relaxation are synonymous with alcohol. That’s the message they get that they will never be able to have fun or relax again. This is untrue. We learn in treatment or in the recovery spaces that you can have fun and relax in many different healthier ways,” says Rahme.
9. If all else fails, stay at home
If it seems too overwhelming or you are concerned that the family event or holiday will put your recovery in danger – stay at home. This might seem difficult especially if you don’t want to disappoint your family, but if they support your recovery, they will understand the choices
10. Be kind to yourself
Appreciate yourself for how far you've come and be kind to yourself. Be proud of your healing because it never happens easily and calls for ongoing effort and care. Keep in mind that addiction is a brain disease and that your attempts to rehabilitate and get better are what matter.