During certain times of the year, staying sober is liable to become a little bit more difficult. This is typically the case when holidays crop up that seem to revolve solely around excessive drinking – holidays like St Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, the 4th of July and… well, any holiday, really. For most of us, the holiday season (predominantly Christmas and New Years) features a great number of booze-fueled holiday parties, from White Elephant gift exchanges with friends and ugly sweater parties with co-workers to family dinners and get-togethers that somehow always happened to end in big political blowouts. This year, with the COVID-related restrictions and another looming round of nationwide lockdowns, the holiday season will look a little bit different. It might prove to be a tad bit easier to avoid holiday parties, seeing as most will probably be canceled in the first place. However, there will undeniably be a unique set of stressors and relapse triggers that go hand-in-hand with these newfound restrictions and guidelines.
Staying Sober Over the Holidays – COVID-Related Stressors
Below are a few examples of ways in which coronavirus could complicate the holiday season for men and women who are in recovery:
Social isolation. While many of us do have slightly (or severely) dysfunctional families, many of us still enjoy returning home for the holidays and visiting with relatives and old friends. This year, doing so might not be possible. For this reason, it is important to do what you can to ward off feelings of loneliness by staying in touch with members of your sober support system and staying engaged in other ways.
Fear of the unknown. This is a totally unprecedented time for all of us, and as we do our very best to navigate the new and unfamiliar circumstances, we also have to navigate the stress that tends to go hand in hand with not knowing exactly what comes next. As recovering addicts and alcoholics, many of us like to stay in control of our own lives – we have “control freak” tendencies (for lack of a better term), and we don’t like leaving our fate up to anyone else (other than our higher powers, perhaps). Because we are dealing with such unique circumstances, we truly have to learn how to operate without knowing what the next day will bring.
Increased financial insecurity. As it stands, we tend to spend a lot more during the holidays than we do during any other time of year. We spring for expensive presents for our loved ones, whip up fancy dishes to participate in holiday-themed potlucks and potentially spend money on things like traveling home (airfare isn’t cheap). This year, many of us are dealing with unexpected job loss, ongoing struggles with the unemployment department, pay cuts and a range of other financial issues and concerns. Cyclical closings and reopenings combined with the traditional stress of the holiday season can be a recipe for relapse if we do not learn how to effectively combat our financial relapse triggers.
An unwanted change to routine. As previously mentioned, we tend to be a tad bit controlling – any change to our daily routine has the potential to throw us completely off kilter. Most of us have developed a day-to-day routine that includes our personal program of recovery, and includes things like attending the same 12-step meetings every week and meeting one-on-one with a therapist. COVID-related restrictions have really thrown a wrench in the majority of our daily plans. Learning to adapt is not always easy, but it is necessary.
How to Stay Sober in the Face of Adversity
So how does one stay sober in light of these additional stressors and relapse triggers? There are several steps you can take to ensure that you make it through the holiday season with you sobriety – and your sanity – completely intact. Take the following advice into careful consideration before making any major plans – and remember that you can always reach out to Chapel Hill Detox for additional insight and tips on maintaining your recovery.
Make sure that you have at least five sober friends on speed dial if you are going to a potentially triggering holiday event. There are few techniques more effective than stepping outside for a breath of fresh air and giving a trusted friend a call to discuss your current circumstances. If you know you’ll be attending a holiday party or another social event, let some people know ahead of time, and inform them that if they see your number pop up on their cell phone it is probably an emergency.
Don’t make any major changes to your personal recovery routine. The typical holiday season includes a lot of traveling, which can throw a wrench in your day-to-day routine. Although you will have to adapt to some degree, try not to make any major changes that could compromise the integrity of your sobriety.
Make sure that you’re making at least one (virtual) Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every day. what would the recent transition from in-person 12-step meetings to virtual in 12-step meetings, there is no excuse not to make at least one meeting a day. All you need is a laptop and a strong Wi-Fi connection.
Participate in an amped up self-care routine. Maybe your standard self-care routine consists of individual therapy, 30 minutes of daily exercise and a nice bubble bath to round out the day. During this exceptionally stressful time of year, make sure that you are amping up this routine and keeping yourself as comfortable as possible.
Say “no” when you need to – don’t be afraid of hurting feelings or offending anyone. Remember to set and maintain personal boundaries. The show will go on without you, no matter how it might feel in the moment. While refusing an invitation might hurt someone temporarily, they will get over it and you will be protecting what is truly important.
Remember that you don’t have to answer any questions that you don’t feel comfortable answering. You might have that one grandma that always asks why you weren’t married, or that one cousin who is so intrigued by your war stories that he will not let it go. You don’t have to detail your addiction or your recovery, and you certainly don’t have to answer any prying, personal questions.
Don’t forget to pray and meditate every day. Heck, twice a day. Prayer and meditation is not only part of every effective recovery program, but it should probably be a part of your self-care routine as well.
Reach out for additional help and support whenever you start to feel even a little bit unstable in your sobriety. If you currently meet with your therapist once a week, you might want to up your therapy sessions to twice a week during the holiday season. If your mental health starts to feel a little bit shaky, reach out for additional support – do what you need to do to keep your recovery intact.
Expand the support groups you attend, however temporarily. Maybe you currently stick to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and hit up the occasional Narcotics Anonymous meeting whenever you’re feeling a little bit daring. If you are heading home for the holidays, and if you have addiction in your family (which many of us do), it might be a good idea to attend an Al-Anon meeting or two as well. Al-Anon was developed for the family members of individuals who struggle with addiction. There are many support groups available, all of which can easily be found with a simple Google search.
Take care of your physical health. The holidays tend to be a time of over-indulgence. Make sure that you are exercising regularly and eating enough nutritious foods. Also, be sure that you are getting enough sleep – sleep is something that we all too often overlook during the holidays.
Chapel Hill Detox – Our Simple Admissions Process
Chapel Hill Detox is staying open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing as the services we offer are essential – in fact, they are often a matter of life or death. If you or someone close to you has been suffering at the hands of a life-threatening substance abuse disorder, we are available to help. Simply give us a call today to learn more about our comprehensive and individualized program of medically monitored detox, and to begin on your own personal journey of healing. The moment you give us a call, we will set to work developing a plan for your intake. When it comes to substance abuse and dependency, it is always better to seek professional treatment sooner rather than later. Addiction is a progressive disease – one that can be effectively treated if a long-term program of a dictionary recovery is sought and closely adhered to.