The holiday season can be a source of great joy and inspiration. We have even suggested that the late-year holidays can serve as a roadmap to getting sober.
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But the holidays can also be a time of significant stress—and that can be a problem if you are newly in recovery from a substance use disorder. Too much stress poses a risk to your sobriety, so it is a good idea to think through how you plan to handle the holidays this year.
Let’s take stock of some of the stressors that pop up around the holidays as well as some ways to manage them effectively—so that you can celebrate the holidays and your ongoing sobriety.
A List of Holiday Stressors
On the one hand, we are a little bit reluctant to offer a list of ways you might get stressed out over the holidays. After all, the list itself might be a cause of stress!
That said, one of the best ways to prepare yourself for challenging situations is to identify them in advance and think them through. So, here is a (no doubt partial) list of things that might cause stress during a time of year when you are expected to be merry and bright.
Oh. There’s the first one right there.
- The expectation that you will be merry and bright throughout the holidays.
- The tricky, treacherous conversations that always seem to be a part of big holiday meals.
- The pressures of gift-buying in terms of your finances, amount of time spent shopping, and the pressure to get the right thing for the right person—particularly if there are children to please.
- The effort involved in wrapping gifts when you don’t have the facility or the patience for it.
- The expectation that you will adhere to family traditions—both secular and religious—without deviation.
- The pressure to decorate your home elaborately—inside and out.
- The challenges of making sure all family members feel they have gotten enough of your time on the proper days—combined with the challenges involved in traveling from family to family.
- The potential ongoing irritation caused by hearing holiday music everywhere you go.
- The perceived obligation to cook, bake, and/or eat huge amounts of food.
- The fact that some holiday gatherings you feel obliged to attend may well involve alcohol.
Do you recognize any of your personal holiday stressors in that list? Are there others you would include if you were making the list? Either way, we think our point holds: The holidays offer plenty of stressful moments to try to navigate with your sobriety intact.
Planning Ahead is a Present to Yourself
How you choose to handle any of the above issues that might arise is, of course, up to you. But by making a plan in advance, you give yourself a better chance to succeed in keeping your holiday stress levels low.
Part of planning ahead may mean having some conversations—potentially including some difficult talks—with friends, family, and others.
For example, you may need to limit the amount of travel you will do this season. Being up front with folks about that can help alleviate hurt feelings. You may need to tell your coworkers that you are going to skip the company holiday party because you just don’t feel comfortable around alcohol. You might have to explain to friends or family that you are not in a position to exchange gifts this year. Or you might have to give yourself permission not to decorate or cook or go caroling with your church group.
Your priority this holiday season is your sobriety. Give yourself the grace you need to ensure that the holidays don’t result in a relapse.
This Holiday Season We Can Help You Reclaim Your Sobriety
At Bel Aire Recovery Center in Kansas, we know that sobriety is a perfect gift to give yourself any time of the year. We offer personalized treatment for substance use disorders and mental health disorders that may be entangled with them. Through medically supervised detoxification, you have the opportunity to get sober in an environment that keeps temptations away and withdrawal symptoms at bay. Our rehabilitation program, which includes group and individual therapy, helps prepare you for your newly sober approach to life. And our continuum of care ensures you have ongoing support during the challenging early days of your recovery journey.
Sobriety really is a gift—a gift you give yourself and the important people in your life. When you are ready to make a change, we are ready to get to work.