SURVIVE CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR
HELP PEOPLE IN EARLY RECOVERY
Christmas and new year, plus the few weeks immediately after when people can feel complacent, are the riskiest times of the year for relapse back to alcohol/drugs. Preparations must start in November to avoid a crisis and instead build a template for future healthy, happy christmases. Deirdre Boyd brings advice from established experts in addiction recovery.
This page offers top tips from Bayberry Clinic, which treats both professionals and the general public for addiction and related disorders.
You can get more top recovery tips from:
+ Kirby Gregory of Action on Addiction (patron: the Duchess of Cambridge)
+ Tessa Corner of StreetScene, who highights multicultural activities
+ Mo Dunne of Hebron Trust, which specialises in women’s issues
+ Mount Carmel in London which offers aftercare for life
+ Castle Craig Hospital in Scotland and the Netherlands.
Print-friendly advice from all 7 rehabs:
Download AddictionToday139 – Survive christmas
“Christmas can be a very difficult time for the general population as a whole, due to difficult family dynamics, lack of money, past trauma, grief and loss to name a few. If you add addiction to the mix, it can be a major trigger to a serious relapse,” warns Bayberry Clinic clinical manager Mike Delaney.
People in early recovery are very vulnerable as they start the process of rebuilding relationships and family ties, working on self-esteem and confidence issues and creating a new network of support. Christmas can be a painful time for this group of people who can feel alone and isolated, particularly when family systems have yet to heal, where there is unresolved grief issues or when family members are still in active addiction.
It is often hard to “fit back in” to a family system or network of friends who might not understand the concept of abstinence and or made changes necessary to support recovery. It can feel like “everyone else in the world is happy and is drinking/using drugs except me” as alcohol is so prevalent in the “celebrations” whether it be in families, the workplace, socially or even in our favourite TV programmes such as soap operas, most of which centre round pubs.
It can be difficult to get away from alcohol and recreational drugs even when you stay at home and try hard – I can still remember sitting in the cinema in very early recovery and counting 13 advertisements for alcoholic drinks before the film started!
Part of recovery from addiction is about being proactive and prepared, devising strategies to deal with potential or presenting situations. A common sense and “safety conscious” approach is useful, focusing on positive action such as below.
1. Make a relapse-prevention plan for each day of the holiday period, to include daily fellowship meetings. Check your local area as there are usually extra meetings and social gatherings scheduled to help people who are struggling.
2. Plan activities such as exercise, walking, relaxation, thus avoiding the temptation to “slob out” alone at home.
3. Plan, if possible, to be with other recovering people or people who support your recovery.
4. Have breaks from stressful situations by meeting friends for coffee, going for a walk, to the gym etc.
5. Make a list of people you can call if things get difficult – at least five names – and carry the list and your phone with you at all times.
6. Do service in the 12-step fellowships or volunteer to help other charities such as Helping the Homeless.
7. Do a daily gratitude list to help keep your spirits up.
8. Try to have everything you might need at home in advance to avoid wandering the streets looking for shops on the main holidays, as most of the open shops will be off-licenses. Try to include plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and healthy food which you enjoy.
9. Avoid isolation and listening to music which can trigger sadness or uncomfortable feelings
10. Avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants or other ‘wet’ places. Do not be tempted to “test yourself”.
11. Do not get into arguments, squabbles or unhealthy dynamics with friends or family members, especially if they have been drinking.
12. “Keep it in the day”. Each day of the festive season is just another 24 hours, so try not to give it any more power than that. Enjoy your christmas and New Year, one day at a time.