As the end of the year draws near, it isn’t uncommon for those in recovery to start feeling apprehensive about the festive season and all that it brings. Being surrounded by family or in a space that is associated with negative feelings can set off a lot of triggers.
Avoiding Christmas all together isn’t always a viable option either, and for some the thought of not spending the holidays with family is worse than the possibility of coming up against a trigger.
Planning is often what gets us through a difficult time, so it’s with this in mind that Recovery Zen brings you this guide to surviving the Festive Season without acting out!
Have an exit strategy
If things go pear-shaped and you feel that you absolutely cannot stay another moment at Christmas lunch or whatever New Year party you’ve agreed to go to – then make sure you have a plan of escape. This includes having your own transport or agreeing with a friend that they will fetch you, should things get out of hand.
If you expect that you will have to leave at some point, then have a valid excuse already in place, to avoid having to explain yourself (or getting caught in a lie).
Check out your local soup kitchens and see what time they may need help, or make a plan to see someone who isn’t triggering and will value your presence.
Following up the ‘I have to get going’ with ‘I’m volunteering at a soup kitchen’ often means you won’t need to justify why you’re heading off early.
Bring your own beverages
If you’re not drinking alcohol, then make sure that you bring your own fun drinks to celebrate with.
Woolies makes a range of really tasty cordials, which when mixed with sparkling water, make a great non-alcoholic option. There’s also Kombucha, non-alcoholic beers and even sparkling wine which can make sure you don’t feel like you’re ‘missing out’.
Stay focused on your own recovery
Once in recovery, it’s easy to see when other people are out of control – especially around alcohol and food. Keep the focus on your own recovery and avoid getting caught up in feeling like you need to offer anyone else advice or ‘insight’ into their destructive behaviour.
Choose the conversations you take part in
When old friends or family get together, it isn’t uncommon to reminisce about the good ol’days, which invariably were before you were in recovery. If the conversation moves in the direction where you’re going to feel judged or if it’s going to trigger shame or euphoric recall, then remove yourself from that conversation and find another one which is less triggering.
There is also the possibility that someone who has been hurt by your pre-recovery behaviour, chooses to bring it up at lunch. This is a great opportunity to practice boundary setting, as you acknowledge their hurt, re-enforce that you are in recovery now and then suggest a change in subject. There is a time and place to air grievances, if you feel that Christmas lunch isn’t appropriate, then you are within your right to communicate that.
Check-in with yourself regularly
It’s easy to get caught up in all the activities that are going on around the festive period. Check in with yourself regularly to make sure you’re not complying, falling into old behaviour patterns or trying to rescue anyone. Check in on your thoughts and see what they’re doing – are they neutral or is there blame, shame or self-doubt?
Take the time to regroup
If you’re out of your normal routine during the festive season, and you find yourself feeling ungrounded or falling into similar thought or behaviour patterns, then ground yourself again by going to a meeting, attending a yoga class, journaling or calling a fellow to check in with them.
You’re not alone
It’s so easy to feel alone, even if you’re surrounded by people who love and care for you (but don’t always know how to show it in a healthy way). Work your steps, read inspiring material and stay focused on your recovery – this time of year is difficult for a lot of people. Reach out when you need to, your call for support may in fact help remind another person that they too are not alone.