Protecting your sobriety at Christmas
According to Andy Williams, It’s the most wonderful time of the year but for those of us in recovery or early sobriety it can be extremely challenging, stressful and lonely. If you’ve read my other blog posts about Christmas and socializing, you will know that I always encourage you to focus on the positives but sometimes you need a bit of extra support and encouragement. I’d like to share with you today some tips and advice on protecting your sobriety at Christmas.
First of all protecting your sobriety at Christmas is your responsibility but you should never feel alone, there is support and help out there and if you are feeling especially triggered, anxious, sad or lonely then you must reach out to your support network – before it gets too much.
Plan and prepare
This is possible the most important thing you can do, the more you can prepare in advance for any particular difficult situation, then the easier it will be to handle. If you are going out, then find out as much as possible before hand. Who is going, what alcohol free alternatives will there be, can you take your own alcohol free drinks? Plan how to leave early, if necessary. Take a sober friend with you or have the number of a trusted person you can talk to if you need to.
Prepare yourself before going, do visualizations or yourself having a good time and not drinking. Practice saying no and remember you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone, just make something up if you need to.
Make time for yourself
I always talk about the importance of self care and alone time, because they are fundamental in sobriety and recovery. This can be a very overwhelming time and you may feel forced to ‘be happy’ and join in with the festivities because of the huge expectations we have for everything to be perfect and that everyone must have a good time. This added pressure can make you pretend and feign having fun which can be triggering and dangerous if you don’t make time for yourself.
Know your limits and stick to them. If you need to leave the table and sit by yourself for a few minutes, then do it. Never be afraid to leave a party early or go outside and call someone if things get too much.
If early nights are what keep you safe, then don’t stay up late because other people are. Equally if you need to do an early morning walk, or have an afternoon nap, then make sure this alone time is scheduled into your pans and honored.
Connect with other people in your sober community
Depending on where you live, there will often be sober events hosted by the recovery community. Find out if there are any meetings in your area on Christmas day or New Years Eve. Are there any specific alcohol free events in your area that you can go to? Can you get involved and volunteer your services to a charity or recovery centre? If you can’t face doing the same thing as you have done in Christmases past, then make the effort to do something completely different. Helping and giving brings such a wonderful sense of joy, so do something for other people and don’t sit there by yourself.
Stick to your routines
When everyone around you is going crazy, ‘because it’s Christmas’ protecting your sobriety is even more important. Don’t be tempted to get swept away and undo all the hard work you have put in. Remember, it is just another day so do what you always do and stick to your routines. Go to a meeting if that is what you usually do, don’t skip your meals, don’t forgo your sleep and keep up with your journaling, your meditation, your daily walk or alone time. Whatever it is that works for you, then keep doing it.
Don’t dwell on the past
I had an attack of ‘mom guilt’ this week about Christmases I’d spoilt for my kids by getting drunk on Christmas Eve and then not being truly present for my family the next day. It hurts, and remembering these occasions throws up all sorts of unhappy feelings of guilt, shame and regret. However, it is so important not to dwell on it too much, otherwise you can find yourself getting more upset, anxious and emotional. Get it off your chest, write these feelings out or talk to someone but don’t hold on to the past. What’s done is done. It’s time to focus on better things, so remember that your sobriety is the best gift you can give yourself and your family this Christmas.
Create New Traditions
This is a lovely way of protecting your sobriety at Christmas and making a wonderful, alcohol free Christmas your new normal. If you always decorated the tree in the evening with wine, then do it in the morning with posh coffee or tea instead. If you went out on Christmas Eve to a party, then why not go to a carol service or see the lights in your town or drive somewhere and go for a walk with your friends or family.
Make an effort to do something new with your kids too, make your own decorations, make and decorate biscuits or go and do something completely different. My friend is going for a picnic on the beach this year, so you could just get away from it all if you want to. There are no rules to say you have to do what everyone else expects or what you’ve always done.
Keep it simple, keep it safe
At the end of the day, think about what Christmas really means to you. Is it spending time with your family, is it helping, giving or just being with the people you love?
Don’t feel forced to partake in extravagant parties or over indulgent Christmas lunches. Don’t feel under pressure to buy the best gifts or have the most beautifully decorated tree.
Above all, don’t feel under pressure to do something that you don’t want to do ‘Just because it’s Christmas’ Protecting your sobriety at Christmas and staying safe is the most important thing for you, so if you need to just keep it simple. Do what you are comfortable with, and nothing more and do not apologize for it.
Don’t keep things bottled up
Addiction thrives in isolation. Sobriety is all about connection so use your connections. Never keep quiet if you are struggling. Talk to someone in your community or a friend or relative you trust. Holding on to our thoughts, bottling up our feelings and staying stuck in our heads is never a good idea. Talk, write, share, message, or see someone in person before things get too much for you. You are not alone and should never feel that you are.
This time of year is full of joy, love, fun and happiness and just because you are in recovery doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy and embrace it all if you want to, it shouldn’t mean isolation and feeling alone or left out. Just be aware that protecting your sobriety at Christmas is your top priority and your responsibility.
I hope this helps you to have a wonderful, sober and safe Christmas this year.