The cravings of addiction tend to intensify during the overall merriment of a holiday. The thinking goes: everyone else is being carefree, why shouldn’t I? The demands of social interaction trigger a desire for the liquid courage of alcohol, the boost of cocaine, or the mellowing from opioids. But remember, you are not powerless in the face of your cravings. Just as you avoid grabbing an extra slice of pie and guard your waist, there are ways to eliminate the risk of relapse and beat addiction during the holidays.
1. Identify your Addiction Triggers
Are there friends that pull you in and are bar happy? Is there a particular uncle who enjoys mixing drinks for everyone? A pivotal part of avoiding relapse is to know what gets to you so you can limit your exposure to it. This is the foundation on which the pillar of sobriety rests, understanding your limitations and what has proved overwhelming in the past. It can be as simple as not accompanying someone to the liquor store or not being alone for too long and watching TV with family to avoid pining. Being honest with yourself and what you can handle goes a long way to preventing hazardous situations.
2. Plan How to Avoid Them
It’s easier to take it one day at a time. There’s comfort and security in a schedule, something you can fall back on when feeling tempted by addiction or lost. At the start of the day, have the mindfulness to set a few minutes aside and write what you’ll be doing, which parties you’ll be attending, and who you’ll be seeing. Write a little blurb of what you hope the day feels like and accomplishes for you. This will be your guide, a shining lighthouse that leads you to safety when events get fast and foggy.
The honesty pays off here. If you have identified what causes discomfort and frays your nerves, it will be easier to avoid it altogether by simply writing it out of the schedule. Party #1, Party #2, Party #3, no stop for a drink at a bar, and so on. If loneliness is a trigger and you are staying in one place with friends or family, get creative with your scheduling.
Write down songs you’ll play, movies you’ll show, clothes you’ll wear, and meals you look forward to having. It doesn’t have to be a dour experience; consider turning it into a game and making fun predictions about the day, who will bring up politics first at the table, and which cook will prove a dud. Before you know it, the plan will be a part of your life as you gleefully adhere to its contents, something you set out for yourself while sober and entirely in control of your future.
3. Be Ok with Saying “No”
Say this to yourself: turning something down is not letting someone down. Same as anyone else, you have boundaries and preferences that you maintain. Saying “no” doesn’t have to be a big show; it helps to plan what you might say ahead of time. Something as simple as “Thank you, I am not drinking tonight!” or “Yes, I’ll have a coke” goes unquestioned and resolves the situation faster than your mind can linger on addiction. Remember that the moment of declining something is more significant in your mind than in anyone else’s.
In reality, saying no takes less than a second, but sticking to your guns can change your entire night, year, or life. Practice it in the mirror, stroll into the frame like the Fonz and shoot two fingers up with a calm and cool “no.” Being comfortable with the word will help beat your addiction during the holidays.
4. Rely on your Support System
A mother, a comrade who went through a similar experience, someone in the same program as you, a steady friend whose hand never shakes and whose will rarely falter, a sponsor, a priest, a hotline— whoever that special person who helps you beat your addiction might be, have them along. Human contact is irreplaceable. Invite them to your family gathering or spend one-on-one time if you need to be alone. A support system is fantastic because nobody understands addiction more than someone who has been through it or heard about it at length.
Do not for a second believe that you are a burden on them. You are a friend and would gladly advise them if the roles were reversed. Even if it’s minimal, a bit of caring human contact, like an occasional check-in text asking how you are doing, can give you the willpower to be accountable.
5. Know When to Leave
It’s getting late, people are getting drunk or rowdy, and it’s time to go. When, in the course of Holiday events, it becomes necessary for an exit to commence, do so with no hesitation. Just like saying no, practice can also help here. “It’s getting late, I should go,” “time to hit the hay,” and “It’s been lovely, I’ll miss you guys” are all acceptable statements that convey finality without overdoing it. If someone is trying to get you to stay, despite your addiction, you can be firmer in your response and tell them that you are sober.
Whatever the stressor is, whoever is offering it to you, make sure to remove yourself immediately. Go for a walk or a jog to clear your mind, wash your face, shower, retreat to a loved hobby, or call a friend. A quick exit is necessary for maintaining sobriety when the situation calls for it and having the willpower to do so will aid in beating your addiction.
6. Fill your Idle Time
Here’s something many don’t know about the holiday season, it’s understaffed. Volunteering opportunities to help the less fortunate are everywhere, whether in soup kitchens or food preparation. You are sure to find a crowd of people that serve a noble, higher purpose and intend to give back to the community.
Few things are more nourishing for the soul and better at warding off the pangs of addiction than caring for others. The Holiday season is about spreading joy, which may bring untapped sources of resolution only found when working toward a goal. It’s also a great, addiction-free activity that allows you to bring someone along. The more, the merrier! You’ll be surprised how addiction becomes an afterthought when everyone is united in a laborious, joyous mission to bring holiday cheer.
7. Embody the Holiday
Have you ever immersed yourself deeply in a hobby or an event? Have you ever been known as Mr/Ms. Very Good at Guitar, or Mr/Ms. Knows Everything About the Lobster Festival. The Holiday season is rife with history and aesthetic quirks honed through centuries of celebration. It’s a great distraction if you can embody that. Become your group’s resident storyteller, read a book about the holiday and learn its origin and traditions. Take part in the decorating or lead it yourself, dress up and tell Holiday tales if you wish to.
The season can be a canvas on which to draw endlessly silly experiences; it’s tailor built for fun. Instead of focusing on addictions, shift that energy to putting on a costume and personalize the holiday. You might create new traditions that everyone will demand year after year, forging unforgettable memories and making attachments that will make addiction a thing of the past.
If an addiction craving proves irrepressible, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call us at 855-448-3707. GateHouse Treatment provides free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We legitimately care about helping you be the best version of yourself and offer treatment for various addictions. Our treatments are deeply personalized, fit for your needs and always with a touch of human understanding to make overcoming addiction just a little easier.