Dealing with addiction during 2020's COVID Christmas
The strain of the coronavirus pandemic along with the added pressure of the festive season is going to make Christmas in 2020 particularly difficult for those in recovery.
If you're recovering from an addiction, it is completely understandable if you’re feeling nervous about the holidays right now. And while it may not be one that is filled with parties, it is likely that there are elements of this year’s Christmas that are causing you to feel stressed and anxious.
Here are some tips our experts have put together to help you stay comfortable and committed to your recovery this Christmas:
Plan every day of your Christmas break
This should include the weeks before and after Christmas, to help you to really prepare and minimise the chances of a post-Christmas relapse too. Make a note of everything you have scheduled, whether with friends and family or by yourself, and plan how you will approach each event. This will help you to stay in control and feel confident as you head into the festive season.
Be realistic about Christmas
The reality of Christmas is that it isn’t perfect; there are still plenty of stress triggers, which can be exacerbated with the pressure to get together, to spend money and to make everything memorable. Have in mind how you’ll manage your expectations of each day, and remember that most people aren’t having the stereotypical fairy tale Christmas.
Be prepared for the triggers that may lie ahead, and look after your emotions during this busy period. Make sure you eat, sleep and move well too.
Rewrite traditions that don’t work for your recovery
You don’t have to take part in activities which will threaten your sobriety. Create new ones that work for you, your health and happiness. This is your Christmas too, so put yourself first and make the season as comfortable as possible for managing your recovery.
Make the most of your support network
Whoever is always there for you, keep them close – they’ll want to help you get through the season so let them in on what you’re going through and speak to them as regularly as possible, even if it’s just for a catch-up. Have a list ready of ten people you can speak to on any day, including your sponsor.
Allow yourself to say no, whenever you need to
You can say no as often as you like, to anything you’re not comfortable with. Under all circumstances, avoid invitations and locations where your strength will be tested.
Don’t become overwhelmed with tasks
It’s common for tasks such as shopping, decorating and cooking to pile up around Christmas and they can take their toll. Don’t let them overwhelm you and avoid taking on too much.
Prepare exit plans for gatherings
If you’ll be attending get-togethers in line with government restrictions, have a plan for how you’ll exit. If you drive, then it’ll help to have your car with you if possible – otherwise, make sure you save taxi numbers in advance so that you can leave as soon as you need to.
Be aware of unexpected alcoholic ingredients
These are often present in festive snacks, cakes and chocolates, so make sure to check food labels if possible. If there aren’t any to be seen, then don’t take the risk of accidentally consuming alcohol.
Write a daily list of things you’re grateful for
Doing this every day will allow you to be thankful for what you have to appreciate. This is a valuable way of taking pleasure from the often-overlooked parts of our life.
Avoid social media
Seeing what others are posting on their accounts at this time of year can be triggering, so don’t run the risk of making unhealthy comparisons while you look after your mental health.
Don’t keep alcohol in the house
If you are expecting to host people within your social bubble, don’t run the risk of relapse just to provide them with a drink.
Schedule online recovery meetings
12-step fellowship meetings will still be running during the holidays, so plan ahead to join those that you can make time for. Speaking to peers in these groups will help you to feel supported and recognise that you’re not alone.
Take things one day at a time
Although Christmas can feel like a long and intense period of pressure, particularly after a 2020 spent largely at home for many, you can treat these few weeks like any other time of year, or any other Christmas. Take each day as it comes and enjoy being in the moment.
This blog was reviewed by Siobhan Ward (BA(Hons) Graphic Design, MSc in Addiction Psychology and Counselling, PgDip in Addiction Psychology and Counselling), Addiction Programme Lead at Life Works.
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