Preserving Sobriety During the Holidays

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Holidays are a whirlwind. We are quickly being launched into the holiday season. I know every year I have a moment when I feel blindsided by how the year zipped by. I can’t believe it is nearly Halloween, with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year soon to follow. As if our lives weren’t already feeling busy enough, we are now trying to work in more family time, budgeting for the holidays, holiday shopping, and attending parties.

The holidays are a wonderful time, yet when it comes to feeling balanced, that can easily go out the window. Stress is a trigger for falling into addictive patterns. And for those bravely protecting their sobriety, the holidays can feel stressful on a whole other level. For example the sheer challenge of staying sober, the worry of slipping up and disappointing loved ones, or reuniting with family members with whom relationships are stressed.

If you are someone struggling with addiction, you can read this blog post as a starting point for your own self-reflection about potential challenges in the holiday season. If you are a loved one of someone struggling with addiction you may gain insights into your loved one’s challenges. You may even relate much more so than you originally thought.

1. Managing a Busy Schedule

So often we fall into the trap of adding more and more to the schedule. The reality is, you are only one person. You can only be in one place at a time, doing one thing at a time. There are a finite number of hours in the day. Neglecting your own needs is a dangerous move in recovery.

I’d encourage prioritizing. Consider your values and what you might really regret NOT doing. If you know those Wednesday night 12 step meetings are your saving grace, please find a way to go. Examine what can wait, what can be delegated, and what can be taken off your list completely. What do you need to prioritize?

2. The Stress of Feeling Obligated

Over and over I hear from people “I feel bad saying no.” Guilt about saying no seems to be a common theme in the human experience. More often than not, people accept a “no” answer. We just have a tendency to listen to the anxious thoughts that say “what if they hate me, feel unappreciated, or feel like I don’t care,” the list goes on. The inability to say, “no” when we need to can lead to precarious situations. For example, maybe you’re not ready to be in a room full of people who are drinking when you are trying to stay sober. That’s okay, and you’re recovery is more important than trying to avoid disappointing people. What do you need to say no to?

3. Family Dynamics

sobriety-during-holidaysFamily gatherings are a common occurrence during the holidays. We might see family that we haven’t seen in a long time, some of which who may not know the ins and outs of the challenges of addiction. Or perhaps family members who know it all too well and are feeling hurt by addictive behavior in the past. As difficult as these situations are, they are also good opportunities for positive change. You could consider sharing your struggles and asking for support from a trusted loved one. Or consider making amends with someone that the addiction has hurt. Apologies can sometimes trigger “shame spirals.” One thing that can sometimes prevent spiraling is to remember that the reason your loved one is hurt or angry, is because deep down they have missed you. Who can you ask for support or make amends with?

Even though the holidays have their stressful moments, they are meant to be enjoyed. Considering your priorities, where you need to set limits, and how to build meaningful connection are starting points for a relaxing and truly memorable holiday season.

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About the Author:

Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships. As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters. The Couples Expert Podcast consists of weekly provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips on The Couples Expert YouTube channel and by subscription in Stuart's Daily Notes. Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. His office practice serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area including the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.

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