During the holiday season, there are reminders all around that this time of year is for family, food, and fun. For people in recovery, it is also a time of year to be especially mindful of their recovery and wellness and to plan and prepare.
“This time of year can bring up strong emotions, especially in early recovery, so preparation and support are key.”
~ Lori McCarthy, Executive Director
Some of the challenges this time of year can include an increase in social gatherings where alcohol or other substances may be present, difficulty maintaining a wellness routine during the chaos of the holiday season, and getting together with family when relationships may be complicated.
Focus on Wellness
Even though this is a busy time of year, it’s more important than ever to remain focused on self-care and wellness. Wellness encompasses all aspects of emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing.
Making time for self-care is important, including getting enough sleep, taking time to do the things that bring you peace of mind, proper nutrition, and staying close to your recovery community. It is through these things that you rest and recharge, and this gives you the focus and energy you need to keep your recovery top priority and be able to have a fun and enjoyable holiday season!
If you attend recovery meetings, consider ramping up the number of meetings you attend. Attending a meeting before or after a social gathering can help you navigate some of the challenges and provides a respite where you can share how things are going and get the support you need. There are also special 24-hour recovery-a-thon meetings held on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so you can attend at any time of day or night!
Make time for activities that are good for your mind, body, and spirit, like yoga, meditation, therapy, and exercise. Take time to treat yourself to quiet time alone with a good book, or a hot bath, for example. It may seem like there simply isn’t time for these things, but with preparation and planning, you can keep self-care and wellness at the top of your priority list.
Navigating Social Gatherings
One of the first things to ask yourself about social gatherings is whether it’s safe for you to go. Especially in early recovery, it’s important not to take on too much stress, and if a social gathering with alcohol or other substances isn’t safe for you, this may be the year to politely pass on some invitations.
If passing on the event isn’t an option, it’s important to have a plan in place to keep your recovery safe and allow you to relax and enjoy yourself as much as possible. Talk with people within your recovery network about your concerns, and if possible, bring someone else in recovery with you to the event. Have your own transportation, so if you start to feel uncomfortable you can leave. Bring your own favorite beverages so you have what you like to drink on hand. It’s also a good idea to have a recovery friend on alert in case you need to contact them to help you during the event.
While getting together with family can be a lot of fun, it’s important to consider any challenges you may face in advance, like whether or not there will be alcohol served, who will attend and the status of your relationship with each person, and what triggers you may encounter.
Talk with your family about ways they can be helpful in supporting your recovery. Don’t assume they will know what to do and telling them in advance avoids resentment on your part and gives them the satisfaction of knowing they are being helpful. If you ask that alcohol not be served at a family gathering and it’s not met with a favorable response, it’s okay for you to set a healthy boundary and make alternative plans.
“Family and friends play a key role by making sure unresolved conflicts aren’t broached at gatherings, alcohol isn’t present, and other potentially negative influences are eliminated.”
If emotions are too raw, there are significant unresolved family issues, or you are concerned you may be triggered or blind-sided, make alternative plans for your holidays this year that are safer for you. It can be difficult to inform your family that you aren’t participating in all (or some) holiday traditions, but nothing is more important than your recovery and wellbeing.
About Herren Wellness
We help guests build the skills that are essential to a sustainable recovery, including mindfulness practices, self-care and self-esteem skills, maintaining healthy relationships, and digging into the root causes of what led them to become dependent. We guide guests on how to build upon the skills they already possess and help them discover their ‘why’, or what motivates them to maintain a life of wellness and recovery.