Is it too early to talk about the holidays? I don’t think so. The holidays can be a hard time for many people in recovery. Maybe you’re married or in a relationship and you’re already beginning to be triggered by thoughts of how you are going to balance things between your family and the family of your significant other. And then there’s the money that’s involved, gifts, dinners, maybe travel. Being single doesn’t make things any better. We all know the fear of being alone and that can be magnified by the belief that everyone else is with somebody and happy. I’m divorced. Today my daughters are grown, and I have grand kids. The holidays can still be tuff but when the kids were young, from early November until after New Year’s, the possibility of a relapse was at its highest and the day-to-day struggle was real. My daughters were with their mother on the holiday and were busy with her through the season.
For times like this, it’s never too early to start to work on a plan. Several years ago, I had recognized my struggle during the holidays and as summer was ending, I decided to have a plan in place to get me through. I began to talk to my recovery community about the difficult season that was approaching and asked about how others dealt with this time of year. I was surprised to find that I wasn’t alone. The issue is common.
I find it best to always put a plan down on paper. Being able to look at something physical helps to keep me focused. A good plan needs to include a few specific things. It begins with a clear vision. What is my goal? It contains warning signs I need to be aware of. For me, these include things like isolation and too much screen time. A good plan includes community. I need intentional, focused interaction with others. The number of meetings I am attending may increase. Friendsgiving has become a regular for me. Some of us in recovery make plans and get together the weekend before or after Thanksgiving for dinner. My plan has guardrails in place to help prevent a relapse. An example from my plan for this season are certain people and places I avoid because I find them especially triggering during the holidays. My plan wraps up with a list of tools I can use to soothe and calm myself. My list includes things like meditation and mindfulness. Walks are especially healthy for me, both physically and mentally. I make sure I am getting enough rest. Reading a book or a good podcast can help to stimulate my brain.
Having a plan in place and rehearsing in advance what I can do to care for myself wasn’t present when I was active in my addiction. Today, I can’t imagine life without it. If you’d like to take a deeper look at what a plan looks like and how you can put one in place shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to talk with you.