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Merry Sober Christmas

Susanne Johnson
| December 16, 2016

If you are attending any 12-step fellowship, you know how difficult it is for many to get sober through any kind of holiday, let it be Memorial Day, 4th of July, or Thanksgiving. The couple days after a holiday, the amount of white chips increase drastically. It’s not the addict’s or alcoholic’s fault if a relapse happens. And it’s not the end of the world, but we all should try to avoid it by all means. The way out of sobriety and back into old using or drinking habits could be a one-way-street. A very painful one too. With Christmas upon us, it is important that each and every person going through recovery from the disease of addiction, takes a little time to reflect. Be prepared and have a functioning relapse prevention plan in hand. How do you prepare for a disease, that attacks you cowardly from behind and often without much of a warning? I hope the following steps might help you over those difficult days in sobriety.

1) Plan where you go, and go where you planned

This is especially important if you have a big family. There are often more invitations than you can handle. That turkey is waiting at multiple locations with friends and family alike for you to show up and have a good time. Take time way before the holidays and find a place that is suitable for you. If you are very young in recovery, I would recommend staying away from festivities where beer and wine are flowing. Pick a place where people don’t drink alcohol to have a good time. Your entire family drinks alcohol, at least during festivities? You don’t have to stick with your biological family. There are people also in sobriety that have a beautiful Christmas dinner without the need to numb themselves. Once you have made the plan where you will go, stick to the plan and don’t change your mind on Christmas Day and head somewhere else. There is a good chance that your alcoholism or addiction is talking you into going somewhere else. Don’t listen.

2) Take someone with you, or be the companion

If your entire family isn’t able to have a sober Christmas, ask your sponsor or a friend in the fellowship to give you company. Be honest with your family and say that you are bringing someone else along to help ensure your ongoing recovery. The time of lies and family secrets is over. Be transparent and put your cards down face up. If that doesn’t sound like it will work with your family dynamics, why not accompany someone else with his/her family? Ask friends in the fellowship how they navigate through the holidays and suggest to plan something together.

3) Keep your home alcohol- and drug free

Did you do the right thing and discard all liquor from your home as you got sober? Then there is no reason to bring any back just because it’s Christmas. If you expect visitors, house guests, dinner guests, or friends, keep your home free of substances. Anyone who does not understand this move or is not willing to support it does not need to be with you under the same tree. You’re not telling people whether or not they can drink but you CAN make the rules in your own safe haven called home. If you are the cook and host, keep your home as stress free as possible. Make yourself lists with what needs to be done, at what time and follow your plan. Don’t get stressed out if the bird isn’t in the oven on time! Always remind yourself to be solution oriented and not problem oriented. Maybe increasing the temperature will solve the bird problem? Remember…nobody is perfect. If you accidentally used salt instead of sugar in the pudding, open the freezer and serve a pie with ice cream or anything else you may find. How good or bad your day is, is up to you.

4) Check your medication supply early

In the event you take medication for a mental health issue, please keep in mind that those medications also keep you in sobriety. Shipping during the holidays takes longer and for several days there is no mail. If you mail-order your medication, place your order early so you don’t run out. Check early if you need a new prescription and make an appointment. Your doctor might not be available just before or during the holidays.

5) Say it loud “I don’t drink”

“No” is a perfect answer. You can say it anywhere to anyone. “No, thank you, I don’t drink.” You don’t need to have an excuse, nor feel ashamed. Not to consume alcoholic beverages is not a bad thing at all. Even if everybody else does. Stay strong. Say it loud and clear and don’t feel bad about it.

6) Work-Holiday-Parties

It’s not a must to show up to those. If you expect freeflowing drinks at your annual Christmas-get-together, stay away. If you feel like you have to go, leave right after the dessert. I promise you don’t miss much after that.

7) Have numbers handy

Make a list of friends in recovery, your sponsor, your therapist, your coach or anyone on your support team who can be helpful at a time, where you feel like moving towards a relapse. Ask them before the holidays if it’s okay to call them and when they may be not be accessible. Call if you feel irritated or discontent and thinking of your substance.

8) Go to meetings

Meetings over the holidays are usually very nice with lots of gratitude and feelings of peace and serenity.If you feel being in danger of relapse, go to as many meetings as you can. If your timetable doesn’t allow too many, go to at least some. If you are out of town visiting family, check the meetings in the area prior to your trip and have them printed out with you. If you don’t have access to a vehicle, ask your family to take you to a meeting.

9) Get a book

I found it very helpful to get me a new recovery book about any topic that I might like before a vacation or holidays  come up. In case I feel overwhelmed with a situation, I can always retreat to my room and read for a while to get me back into my mental recovery. Travel with your Big Book or download it to your kindle. Make a snapshot of your daily meditations for the days you are travelling and have it on the phone with you or send it to yourself by email for easy access. You can also read stories of recovery on our website under ‘Read Stories’ and refresh your hope and willingness to stay on course.

10) Make a relapse prevention plan

There are many examples on the internet for a relapse prevention plan. Just do an internet search for it and choose one you like. Fill in the blanks about trigger situations, emergency numbers, etc etc and pin it on your fridge. It helps. If you are really young in recovery and fear the holidays, you can always hire you a coach to be with you by phone and text during those days, to give you a save feeling and hold you accountable.

Enjoy your Christmas time regardless if you spend it at home or elsewhere. Enjoy the gift of giving and receive in gratitude. Remember you already have the greatest gift of all time – your recovery! Be grateful for your family and friends, try to re-connect with those where drugs or alcohol have estranged the relationships. Trust takes time. Keep showing that you have changed. Don’t drink or drug – no matter what. Just for today.

We do recover.

Susanne Johnson

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