Relapse Prevention Plan Over the Holidays

It can be hard to get over drug addiction and alcohol use disorders. An unexpected event or feeling can make someone want to drink or get high at any time. Getting better can be even harder during the holidays. Here is a relapse prevention plan that may help you get through the festive season.

  1. Think ahead – Plan how you will keep yourself sober. Set aside time to go to 12-step meetings or other support groups before or after holiday activities. If you see a therapist, schedule a time to meet before or after your events. And if you’re in formal treatment for addiction, put your sessions on your calendar so you don’t forget about them during this busy time. If you are travelling, look for 12-step meetings or other meetings for people in recovery near where you are going. Prepare an “exit plan” if you want to go to a seasonal event. This could be an excuse to leave early if you start to feel uncomfortable or out of control. If you have a friend in recovery or a sponsor, bring them to holiday events with you. They can be a source of support and fun, and they can also help keep you from drinking or using.

   2. Understand the Emotional Complexity of the Holidays – Most people, even those who don’t have problems with addiction, find the holidays hard on their emotions. This is because there are usually a lot of family events that bring together people with different personalities and maybe even problems from the past. Figuring out who likes who, who is mad at who, etc., in a family can be hard on the head and hard on the heart. For a person in recovery, this can be made worse by the fact that when you were using, you may have done things that made your family fight (on top of all the other potential family dynamic issues).

Talk to people in your recovery support group (or a therapist) about what the holidays mean to you to face this and figure out how it affects your recovery journey. How does your family work, and what feelings do you have about it? Work with your sponsor or therapist ahead of time to figure out how to deal with your feelings around the holidays. This will help you get ready for holiday parties. Also, come up with ways to emotionally prepare yourself and ways to stay away from family members who may be too hard for you.

3. Be Transparent – Your friends and family may not know what it means to be an addict. Some people may believe that “one drink won’t hurt.” Tell your friends and family the truth about your sobriety and what it means to be a recovering addict. This can help them understand why you don’t drink or do drugs, even when things are fun and upbeat, like during the holidays. Also, if they understand your situation, they may be more willing to help you stay sober.

4. Give yourself time to check in – Even if you have a sober friend or sponsor with you, being with your family or at a holiday party may be too much. This is especially true if this is your first holiday since you quit drinking. You might start to feel stressed, angry, or overwhelmed. That’s normal, but those feelings can also lead to going back to old habits. It’s fine to take some time alone, away from the group, to check in with yourself and figure out what you need.

5. Ask for Help – Holidays are a lot of work! If you’ve thought about how you’re feeling and realised you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. “Help” could come from a sponsor, a family member, or a friend. Reach out to someone who knows what you’re going through and can relate to how you feel. During the holiday, you might want to think about going to a group therapy session or a support group meeting. Going to one of these groups can put you in a better mood when you’re with other people.

You can also start or go back to treatment for addiction. You can get help from an intensive outpatient programme or a basic outpatient programme that works with your schedule. This way, you can keep up with your plans and responsibilities while getting help.

6. Make sure you keep track of what you drink – This may seem silly, but at a party, it’s easy to pick up someone else’s drink by accident, which could be alcoholic. You can order your own drinks without alcohol, watch them being made, and keep track of them.

Getting a drink with alcohol in it by accident and drinking it is not a relapse. It’s very important, though, that you put down the drink first and then tell someone in your recovery network what happened. This person can help you work through any feelings, like guilt, regret, or shame, that come up after you drink.

Some people may want more alcohol because it tastes good. If you talk to your sponsor as soon as possible, they can help you deal with the feelings that come up and make a plan to keep you from relapsing again.

7. Avoid Vulnerable, Stressful Situations – Think about the people, places, and things you’ll be around during the holidays. In some situations, you have to be there, but in others, you might not have to. If you know that going somewhere, seeing someone, or doing something will stress you out or cause a trigger, ask yourself, “Do I really need to go?” Again, talking to someone in your support group about what’s going on will help you figure out what to do. Don’t go somewhere if you don’t have to.

The best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones is to stay sober. It may seem hard to stay on track during the holidays, and just thinking about it may make you feel stressed. Just remember there is always support and you are not alone. Contact us at ARCA if you need assistance to stay sober during the funny season.

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