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10 Tips for Staying Drug and Opioid Free During the Holidays

The holiday season is stressful for everyone. Our calendars are packed with holiday parties, family and friend get-togethers, shopping for gifts, and many more events that disrupt our normal schedules. If you’re recovering from an addiction, the added pressure to partake in these events and celebrate with family and friends can make it difficult to stay on-track with your recovery plan. Here are some tips to help you manage the holidays while staying on track with your recovery journey.

1. Make your recovery the top priority

Your sobriety and recovery journey are the most important things to focus on during the holiday season. While you may be tempted to prioritize attending family events, holiday parties, and keeping holiday traditions, ignoring your personal needs can be harmful to maintain your drug-free lifestyle. Trying to maintain expectations about the holidays can lead to feelings of resentment and anger that can negatively impact your recovery journey. Challenge your feelings of resentment and stress, and remember that recovery is a one-day-at-a-time endeavor.

2. Plan ahead

One way to help alleviate the stress associated with the holiday season is to plan ahead. Make plans to attend meetings or meet up with your sponsor during the season. If you are travelling, arrange phone or video calls. If you are heading out to a party, take a drug-free friend with you, and prepare to politely refuse any substances that will negatively impact your recovery. Bring safe foods and drinks to enjoy during the party. Either take your own car or find your own transportation to and from the event. This will allow you to arrive and leave early. While you are at the party, pay attention to your triggers, and have an escape plan if things start to go south.

3. Indulge in self-care

Take time for yourself during the holidays. Eating well, exercising, and getting a good night’s sleep can do wonders for your health and well-being. Find some time to mediate, practice yoga, get a massage, or pray. This alone time will allow you to destress and relax away from the hustle and bustle of the season. It might also be helpful to plan a post-holiday retreat to help you recuperate.

4. Increase your support system

The holiday season often forces us to spend time with relatives, friends, and coworkers. Sending time with some of the people in these groups might be detrimental to your recovery journey. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to refuse an invitation to see them. Remember your health is more important than maintaining relationships that negatively impact your sobriety. If you find that it is impossible to avoid these people during the holiday season, surround yourself with people in your support system. Attend parties and events with friends and family who understand and support your recovery journey. Arrange phone calls and meetings with your sponsor if possible, and set up an emergency contact you can call if you find yourself in a precarious situation.

5. Be mindful of time spent with relatives

Family relationships often come under strain during the holiday season. We are encouraged to spend time with our extended families, some of whom we may generally avoid due to differences in lifestyles and ideologies. These differences can (and often do) lead to arguments and fights, which ruin the festive spirit of the season. This added stress can lead to people rationalizing using drugs as a form of escape. To counter this temptation, surround yourself with supportive family members. Don’t be afraid to decline invitations or walk away from conversations and situations that make you uncomfortable.

6. Create new traditions

While the holidays are often centered around family traditions, don’t be afraid to create new ones. If you find yourself avoiding your family to protect your recovery during the holidays, spend time with friends who support you and your journey to a drug-free life. The holiday season is also a good time to give back to your community. Spend time volunteering at local charities, food banks, and soup kitchens, or see if your local recovery group could use extra help during the holiday season. Remember the holidays are about people, and taking the opportunity to connect with them can allow you to notice all the blessings in your life.

7. Avoid relapse triggers

Because the holidays disrupt our normal routines, it’s easy to feel frustrated or anxious during the holiday season. Many people going through a recovery journey experience feelings of guilt, shame, anger, and/or depression for being a perceived burden on their relatives and friends, and can turn to drugs to help alleviate these feelings. If you find yourself in this situation, talk to your loved ones. Remember, those who support your recovery journey want to help you maintain your sobriety and lead the best life you can. If you feel uncomfortable in any situation, you can say no to participating or attending. Saying no is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself and your recovery journey.

8. Distract yourself

If you find yourself at a party surrounded by drugs or other substances and you are unable to leave, spend time in an area away from where they’re being used. Strike up a conversation with someone in the area, or if you can bring along a sober friend so you can have someone to talk to. Offer to help the host during the party by refilling food plates, getting ice, or organizing games. These small tasks can keep you busy and lower the temptation to use drugs out of boredom.

9. Learn to move past your cravings

Cravings are difficult to ignore. If you find yourself craving a substance, try to remove yourself from your current situation to avoid giving in. Move to a different location and try mediating or breathing deeply. Talk to yourself out of satisfying the craving by reminding yourself of the dangers the substance poses to you and your recovery journey. Remember what is at risk if you give in. If you find these methods are not working, call someone in your support system to talk to you until the craving has passed. Cravings generally last for about 20 minutes, so you shouldn’t feel like you are a burden to whoever you are calling. They are there to support you during your recovery and want you to succeed.

10. Consider entering rehab over the holidays

If you find yourself unable to handle the stress and pressure of the holiday season, or you are worried that spending time with family and friends will hinder your recovery progress, consider checking in to rehab over the holidays. Although some family members or friends might consider it inappropriate, it might be the best time to seek help. Do what you think is best for you and your recovery journey.

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