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.
Top recovery tips on this page are from Mount Carmel in London which offers aftercare for life.
Related pages with more top tips:
+ Kirby Gregory of Action on Addiction (patron: the Duchess of Cambridge)
+ Mike Delaney of Bayberry Clinic, which also treats impaired professionals
+ Tessa Corner of StreetScene, who highights multicultural activities
+ Mo Dunne of Hebron Trust, which specialises in women’s issues
+ Castle Craig Hospital in Scotland and the Netherlands.
Print-friendly advice from all 7 rehabs:
Download AddictionToday139 – Survive christmas
Sonia Sandhu, deputy CEO of Mount Carmel alcohol-treatment centre, describes how it works with its clients as they approach christmas and New Year.
Whatever time of year an alcoholic begins his or her sobriety, they are often heard to ask “How on earth will I cope with Christmas?”. The answer could well be “It is May now, and the principle of one day at a time dictates that we do not worry about christmas until it comes”.
Christmas hopefully does come eventually for the alcoholic in early sobriety. So, as the christmas season starts, it is time for planning (but not projection). We take time to work with ex-clients as christmas approaches. Those in very early recovery might still be in our formal ongoing aftercare programme. Those who are not can contact us at any time and get our help and advice – our aftercare is free for life.
So what do these plans look like?
1. People are reminded that what worked through the year still works. At Mount Carmel we set “boundaries” for our clients:
— don’t go to licensed premises
— go to fellowship meetings
— help your family to get well around you
— stick with healthy people
— do not form exclusive relationships in early recovery, and
— maintain the healthy living practices we teach that keep “HALT” at bay – and if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, speak to someone about it at once.
2. We ask that a written relapse prevention plan is prepared which:
— identifies the individual’s specific signs that point to a possible relapse
— gives an action plan if these signs begin to occur
— gives an action plan in the event that a drink is taken.
3. We remind clients that “expectations are resentments waiting to happen” and Christmas can be a time of high expectations. We suggest:
— remember the difference between planning and projection, and keep things in the day
— Christmas is about being with family and friends – are you ensuring those around you are having a good time? Remember that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
— don’t overdo the presents – it is tempting to make a big splash to try to make up for times past, but that ramps up the emotional stakes. And it drains the bank. The best present of all is you spending a sober and serene christmas with your family and friends.
4. Finally, the foundations of relapse prevention in early recovery are fellowship meetings. We ask for:
— a list of the meetings that will be attended, checking for any christmas and New Year changes
— a plan of how to get to the meetings, given transport restrictions
— we also check that the ex-client has at least five AA telephone numbers, including a sponsor, and
— we check that they have the numbers of one or two other people in early sobriety who might need a supportive call – the AA principle of helping yourself by helping others.
So yes, the Christmas period is more than “just another day” in early recovery, and needs special planning and attention. In fact, it is one of the two key times when particular vigilance is needed. One of those times is christmastide. And the other is all the rest of the year.