From the desk of Greg Tiritilli, RAC
The long awaited change of seasons is finally here. As temperatures begin to cool, sober people find themselves facing a multitude of high risk situations.
Parties and gatherings surrounding the fall semester, football and tailgating, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Years can bring up a complicated set of emotions. Staying sober during the holidays means implementing the appropriate coping skills and recovery tools to manage your addiction recovery.
Dealing with excitement and joy can bring about cravings and using thoughts just like depression and anxiety.
First, it’s important to not lose perspective. Certain events are high risk regardless of the motivation behind them. This is not to say that all parties and gatherings are off limits, but even the most benign family function can lead to cravings. It is the sober person’s responsibility to have a plan in place to address temptations should they arise. Having access to transportation to leaving the party, calling or texting a sponsor or sober friend before, during, or after the event, bring a sober support companion with you, and avoid people who will encourage drinking or using.
Second, sobriety requires sacrifice. One of the most difficult challenges for newly sober people is the idea of delayed gratification. If a person can put off their “wants” and focus closely on their “needs” the chances of making an impulsive decision decrease dramatically. If a person can recognize that it is okay to not accept every invitation or go to every event, they can improve their chance at long term sobriety. A person can sacrifice these things now to ensure that they can enjoy them in the future.
Third, develop self-awareness. If you have grief or trauma as a part of your history, holidays can bring up a unique set of difficulties. Certain family members or friends or being involved in holiday events can bring up anxiety, fear, malaise, depression, anger, or any other negative emotion. If you can recognize this as a typical response to the season, then it may be beneficial to take a preventive approach by ramping up 12 step involvement, engaging in activities that will encourage spiritual growth, communicate with members of your recovery network, exercising, healthy eating, journaling, and individual therapy.
It’s always important to pause and take stock of just how far you have come. Having broken free from the bondage of addiction allowed you to have a new lease on life. The effort, concentration, and work that you put in to the “getting sober” process is monumental and it’s this effort that allows you to enjoy the things life can offer. Protect what you’ve worked so hard for by being mindful of what it took to get you here.