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 StreetScene, which highlights multicultural issues over the festive season for some people in early recovery.
More top recovery tips from:
+ Kirby Gregory of Action on Addiction (patron: the Duchess of Cambridge)
+ Mike Delaney of Bayberry Clinic, which also treats impaired professionals
+ 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
“There has always been so much good advice in this column for all kinds of agencies as well as for clients on an individual basis, so I am just sharing the way our thinking has changed over the recent past as our clients have become more multicultural,” writes StreetScene CEO Tessa Corner.
1. Over the years, as our clients have become more diverse, so our approach to christmas and New Year had to adapt. It is now probable that in each of our units there will be a group of clients for whom the celebration of christmas is something they have never experienced and do not necessarily want to be involved in. We must be aware that for some of our clients christmas can be a difficult time for different reasons.
2. We try to arrange every activity with a view to offering an alternative. This presents new challenges but we have found that, with open discussions with the client group, a good time can be had by all. This generally starts with discussions about decorating the house: does everywhere need to be decorated?
3. In the houses, we remove all religious references to the festivities, but make provision for everyone to be involved in faith-based activities of their choice, with the help of all local religious communities. We keep the emphasis in the houses on doing fun things together in recovery, inclusively. We focus on installation of hope with gratitude workshops, goals for the New Year and the spiritual elements of the programme.
4. Food is another important issue. With the diversity of clients, it is important that everyone has a special meal, and all the decisions round the food are made by the clients themselves.
5. We have always given clients presents at christmas but, again with such a diverse mix of clients, we find it important to ensure that all clients will be happy to receive gifts from us.
6. For all clients, this can be a good time to look at family relationships. If a client wishes to see their family over the festive period, it might be less stressful to do it the week before christmas. For others, the simple act of sending a card might be as far as they can go at this time; we provide time, space and facilities for clients to make their own cards if they wish, as personal allowances do not go far. For some, no contact can be made.
Whatever the relationship, it is important to allow enough time for each client to process their feelings before the festive period itself. This involves raising the issue as early as the beginning of November in the house itself, with each client having a personal plan for any potential problem areas well before time.
7. To encourage inclusivity in the group, we encourage clients to put on a ‘panto’ for the staff where they have permission to send us up as much as they want, which we have always found a good activity for bonding the clients together as a team. Without fail, it gives everyone a good laugh.
8. For the festive period itself, detailed planning is the most important element. Clients are encouraged to get involved in as many different activities as possible. We strive to provide as varied a mix as possible, from attendance at places of worship to communal games, from quiet walks to panto, ice skating, cinema trips, meditation and meetings. This is what could be called plan A. Plan B is to always have enough extra resources available to deal with any other events. The preparation for all this starts now.