Supporting Your Substance Abuse Recovery This Holiday Season

The holidays come with a lot of anticipation. You look forward to experiencing the joy, togetherness and spirit of the season, but it’s not uncommon for idealistic expectations, extra demands and stress to start to weigh you down. Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment offers some practical advice to help support your recovery and your spirit so you can take the holidays in stride.

“Think about what you can do to have a holiday you will appreciate rather than getting caught up in thoughts of what could happen during the holidays. Be mindful and aware instead of ruminating about how unpleasant the experience can be. This is an important time to practice putting less focus on others and more attention to what you can control,” says Gateway Foundation Aurora Clinical Supervisor Nick Turner.

Have a Plan

Look forward and try to anticipate what could happen but don’t get too caught up in your thoughts. Remember, plan out in advance how you want to handle potential issues so you can be mindful and aware of your response. You only can control yourself and how you respond; you cannot control others.

Family Dynamics

Even though you love them dearly, challenging family dynamics—especially around the holidays—are not uncommon. Carry your values with you, like the love you have for your family, and tell yourself, this is how I want to be when I’m around them. Think ahead to when you’re driving home from the gathering, how do you want to feel about your actions and behavior towards your loved ones?

Setting Boundaries

Placing boundaries is an important step in taking care of yourself. For instance, letting your family know ahead of time about topics of conversation that you prefer not discussing can alleviate undesirable confrontations. However, you still need to have a plan in place just in case the subject comes up. Setting a time limit on your length of stay is another boundary you can set. If you do decide to go this route, you should let your family know ahead of time so there are no surprises when you are heading out the door. Gently tell your loved ones it is in the best interest for your recovery and they should understand.

Temporary Avoidance

Maybe you need more time before you feel comfortable hanging out with your family. If you postpone, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holidays with your family next year. You should know it’s okay to feel this way, and there is actually a name for this! This is what we call a value-based avoidance. Keep in mind that Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have 24-hour meetings during the holidays so you don’t have to be alone. Or you could go to a local shelter and help feed the homeless and give back to others who need support during the holidays.

“Remember, when you’re around your loved ones, it’s less about being right or winning a battle and more about your values, goals and who you want to be as a person. The best advice I can offer is to remember to be mindful by observing and responding, don’t just react,” explains Mr. Turner.

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