Well, it’s that time again. Love it or leave it, the holiday season is upon us. Although this time of year brings both joy and stress to most, for those in recovery it can present additional pressure and worry. From intense relatives to boozy holiday parties, the strains of the season abound. There’s good news, however. With a little prep and the right mindset, some holiday cheer can be had. Here are 4 tips for a smoother, saner, holiday season:
1.Keep it Simple
There’s no denying it. Much of the holiday mayhem we bring upon ourselves. From outrageous expectations of greeting-cardlike glory to packed schedules and overcommitting, the holidays are often stressful because we’ve agreed to it, however unconsciously. Consider scaling back this year for your sanity. Do you need to work overtime and buy expensive gifts? Is it really necessary to bite off more than you can chew to please others? Slowing down and taking it easy can be the secret to success for holiday sanity. Keeping it simple means keeping your sights fixed on what really matters—connecting with others, maintaining your sobriety, and staying present, one day at a time. Try it! You might actually enjoy your holidays this year.
2. Lower your Expectations
For many of us, the holidays are loaded with expectations. Maybe you are secretly hoping that your significant other has splurged on the perfect gift. Maybe you have visions of twinkling lights and contented time with family and friends. Or perhaps you’re expecting some other version of a Hollywood holiday, full of blissful moments. The reality—as hard as it can be swallow—is that despite the hype, a holiday is just another day. Keeping expectations low doesn’t mean you have to be a Grinch, or even that the season won’t have its bright spots. It just means that you are less likely to deal with emotions like resentment, frustration, and stress if you keep your expectations in check. Who knows, your family or partner might surprise you with the perfect gift. But if they don’t? Well, no sweat. There will surely still be some good somewhere, even if you have to squint hard to see it.
3. First Things First
Ah, this old 12-step adage still has its mileage! “First things first” is as simple as it sounds. It simply means getting clear on what matters and prioritizing it. In this case, recovery. Maintaining sobriety through the ups and downs of life often involves making sure recovery comes at the top of the list. That looks like making sure you are doing everything necessary to stay clean and sober on a daily basis, no matter what’s going on. Get to support group meetings, stay in touch with your sponsor or sober community, and attend to whatever else you do for the upkeep of your recovery. Most people with happy, long-term sobriety find that sticking with your commitments throughout the holidays can make the difference between a sane, sober holiday season or a miserable one.
4.Get into Service
When all else fails, get into service! If you’ve got no one to spend the occasion with, are dogged by memories of disastrous holidays past, estranged from family and friends, or just struggling to piece together a few days sober, you’re not alone. Many, many people have little or nothing to celebrate this time of year. Finding those who need connection, support, or help can help brings the added benefit of helping you rise above your problems and find some gratitude. Many social service agencies and non-profits offer volunteer opportunities around this time of year, and countless alcoholics and addicts near you could use a friend. Looking for people to help and getting into action can brighten any mood, on any day. Take our word for it.
Whatever your situation, we wish you luck this holiday season. Here’s hoping it brings you joy, peace, and a sense of what’s possible when sober!