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Spending time with family at Christmas can be an interesting experience, especially if you’re in recovery. You may need extra help navigating family dysfunction and enjoying the holiday season. Try tips for managing sobriety during family functions this year.
Before family events, make a decision that you will stay sober. Don’t wait until you arrive to choose your response. Practice saying no in the mirror or with your sponsor so you’re prepared to stay sober during family events.
As you face relapse triggers in daily life, the holiday season includes numerous triggers, too. Make a list of potential challenges and create a plan to avoid or handle them. Possible triggers include:
Eating and drinking are big parts of Christmas celebrations that can potentially snag your recovery. That’s why you want to manage the foods you’ll eat and the beverages you consume. You may need to bring your own snacks, meals or drinks and serve yourself.
Use the sobriety strategies you’ve honed in recovery to stay sober during the holidays. Chew gum, eat an apple, hit the gym, knit a hat, play Solitaire or touch football, take a nap, or call someone. Even choosing to stay sober for one minute, then two, three, five, and ten minutes can help you successfully move through cravings.
Being sober is one of your many blessings. Likewise, list of all the things you can be grateful for, and post your gratitude list on your computer, bathroom mirror and coffee maker. Every time you see that list, remember to give thanks, which can motivate you to stay sober throughout the holiday.
Christmas celebrations disrupt your normal routine, but staying connected helps you stay strong and sober. Continue attending your regular support meetings, if possible, or find an in-person or online meeting if you travel for the holiday. Also, check in with your sponsor and sober friends. You could even invite a sober friend to join your family’s celebration so you have backup support.
You and your sobriety are your priorities. Stick to your sober routine, set limits to your celebrations and plan relaxing activities. Also, visualize yourself sober on January 1. Practice self-compassion and treat yourself with kindness, too. With adequate self-care, you’re more likely to take steps that keep you sober during the holiday.
Maybe you can’t make your family sober or less dysfunctional, but you can help others. Attend a support meeting and share your story. Or help your host and volunteer to wash dishes, play with the kids or perform another act of service.
Despite your best efforts, family dysfunction can push you to your physical, mental and emotional limits. Create an escape plan before the event. Park in a spot that’s easy to get out of or ask a trusted relative or friend to be your ride in case you need to leave in a hurry. You could also set a time to leave and announce that time at the beginning of the day. Or fake a phone call and simply leave the party, if necessary.
A dysfunctional family may not support your sobriety no matter how much you want them to. In this case, you’ll need to be your own hero. Give yourself permission to decline invitations, leave early or otherwise stick to your sobriety commitment.
Despite numerous pitfalls, including family dysfunction, the holidays can be a joyful season filled with bright lights, kind acts and fun traditions. Select one or two of your favorite sober activities to enjoy. Visit a light display, watch your favorite movies or make cookies and crafts with a friend. Celebrate the season as you practice tips for managing sobriety and set a precedent for many more sober holidays to come.