How To Prioritize Your Recovery During The Holidays

That magical, exciting, celebration time of year is here…the holiday season! But for those in recovery and especially new in recovery this can be especially stressful. The holidays bring excitement, yes but also expectations, schedule changes, family gatherings, no family gatherings, parties, travel and financial stress.

Two keys to having a successful sober holiday is prioritizing and planning. Keeping your priorities in mind will be important and make planning for the holiday’s easier. First let’s talk about priorities, what is your top priority? There is a great group exercise where we have individuals write their top three priorities on little slips of paper. Then rank their priorities 1- 3. Then as a group we discuss what is likely to be lost due to relapse. Inevitably, the things that people worry about losing are also their priorities (family, friends, job, finances, etc.); the lesson is that anything you put before your personal recovery is likely to be lost due to relapse. Staying sober, prioritizing your personal recovery must be your top priority.

Prioritizing your recovery also means evaluating your reason for attending events and family gathering. Your sobriety comes first and if situations, places, and/or people are triggers then that has to be considered. What can you expect if you go to Aunt Martha’s house where it always ends up being an all-night wild party versus going to a friend’s house where there won’t be drinking or drugs Family expectations can be overwhelming and stressful, take note especially if you are new to recovery. If you do plan to attend an event then it is important to have a strategy. Asking your host or family whether there will be alcohol served. Although, you still may attend the gathering but knowing ahead of time means you don’t get surprised. If you need support, consider bringing a sober friend with you to a party and if needed bringing your own favorite beverages (think spiced tea, hot cocoa or ginger ale versus non-alcoholic sparkling cider as this too can be triggering). Before you go plan an exit strategy in case it is over whelming and you need to leave. Who will you touch base with before you go or if you leave before expected. Increasing contact with your sponsor and other supportive people adds insulation to your plan. By prioritizing your recovery you understand that when you are planning for the holidays your plan must include how you will support your recovery. 

With schedule changes you may want to plan to go to extra meetings, even a meeting on the actual holiday. Meetings on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day can be very special, some locations have all day meetings and even candlelight meetings. Remember to check in with yourself, are you eating healthy, taking care to get enough sleep. Staying in contact with your support people. Seeking supportive friends. Protect yourself through preparation! And remember Recovery is not a destination but a journey!