In a few short days, the 2021 “Festive Season” will be upon us all. For some, a true celebration, a time of family and get-togethers with close friends, and creating happy memories, with too much food, and possibly too much liquor, beer, and weed.
For others, it can feel like just something else to survive, a time of way too much stress, and another unwelcome event to simply get through (a little like COVID-19).
For most of us, if we’re honest, it’s always a little bit of both.
For some people in either of these groups – the celebrators or the survivors – the Festive Season comes with inherent risks, and the most dangerous risk of all is this:
Losing their hard-earned and hard-won sobriety.
Yes, for those in recovery from a substance use disorder (from either drug addiction or from alcoholism), the “Festive Season” can present a huge array of personal hurdles to negotiate – emotional dinners with an unsupportive family, alcohol-fueled office parties, and so on.
In the U.S., like it’s part of our national identity, we tend to celebrate with too much booze. Now that many U.S. states have legalized marijuana, too, the festivities often involve a joint or, perhaps, even something stronger.
For someone in recovery, being around people who are definitely not sober, and where addictive substances are readily available, the danger signs are clear – they are putting their precious sobriety to the ultimate test.
And for what? Seriously?
Sadly, it can prove too much, and many do fail – their sobriety falling away like used wrapping paper around their feet.
However, with solid preparation and by following this expert advice – gleaned from real addiction specialists and from (real) personal experience – it doesn’t have to be like that at all.
Personal experience? Yes, but for those of us in long-term recovery, “sharing really is caring.”
My own addiction involved both hard drugs and cheap liquor, and it took professional heroin addiction treatment, with treatment for alcohol abuse, too, and countless support meetings spent in the company and wisdom of people who had shared a similar journey to me.
Remember, your sobriety is the most important thing you have. Without it, you are back where you used to be. If that’s anywhere like the place I once was, you’ll do anything and everything to ensure that doesn’t happen.
So, if you are looking to maintain your own sobriety in the next few weeks, read on:
1. Refuse If You Want
You can refuse anything or anyone during the Festive Season if it risks your sobriety – for example, by attending any event that actually threatens it. This includes family dinners that have the potential to turn into emotional war-zones, drunken office parties, even more, drunken house parties, or any other event where there might be drugs or alcohol present.
Additionally, you do not have to spend any time whatsoever with people that may threaten your sobriety either, such as unsupportive family or family members who have their own substance use issues, friends who go a little crazy under the influence, and so on. If in doubt, refuse.
2. Pre-Plan with Your Support Network
Everyone in addiction recovery has their support network – a group of people that are available to them during times when they, the person in recovery, is struggling or faced with a situation that threatens their sobriety.
Contact them now and find out who will be available over the Festive Season to be your lifeline, if you need one. In fact, why not plan your own celebration with one or more of your support network?
3. Know Your Relapse Triggers
Relapses can occur for a whole host of reasons, triggered by something unexpected or unplanned for. So, before the Festive Season gets underway, evaluate and acknowledge your own personal relapse triggers. Once you are fully aware of what makes you vulnerable, avoid situations where those triggers may arise.
4. Volunteer & Do Some Good
Another tip for staying sober during the Festive Season is being of service to others – in whatever way you want to. This could be helping out at an animal shelter (my personal favorite) or at a homeless shelter. It could be reaching out to a newcomer at a support meeting, or something a little closer to home – spend time with an elderly neighbor.
There are literally thousands of different ways to be of service to others, so, this Festive Season, do some good. It’ll do you the world of good, too.
5. Self-Care is Your Only Priority
Maintaining your sobriety involves self-care – taking care of your mental and physical health with nutritious meals, meaningful exercise, and early nights. Furthermore, find some quiet time each day for relaxation, calm reflection, and meditation. See friends you love, walk in nature, and anything else that lifts your spirits and your emotional health.
What advice would you give to someone looking to keep their sobriety intact this Festive Season? Remember, sharing is caring! Stay safe and stay strong.