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Fighting addiction relapse at christmas

The Christmas period can be a time of overindulgence for many people. Despite this year being very different to usual due to COVID restrictions, the season is still associated with eating and drinking to excess. If you’re a recovering alcoholic, or are in recovery from another form of addiction, you may find this time of year particularly challenging. Here we have put together some helpful tips to maintain an enjoyable and sober COVID Christmas.

Christmas is usually a time for celebration. For many people this year, this will mean getting together in smaller numbers within allowed support bubbles or keeping in contact with people over video and telephone calls. If you’re in recovery, Christmas can place you in situations that test your sobriety. In 2020, there may also be additional triggers brought by the pandemic, such as loneliness, grief or job loss.

If you’re worried about the coming weeks, with good preparation and support, your COVID Christmas can be something that you enjoy, rather than it being a time that causes you to feel overwhelmed.

Prepare early

Knowing what you’ll be doing over Christmas allows you to prepare for a potential sudden uptick in socialising. That can be a daunting prospect for anyone, especially after months of government restrictions, depending on where you live. For COVID-secure social gatherings or video calls, plan your approach. Answering the following questions may help with your preparations:

  • How will you deal with the get-together or Zoom catch-up?
  • Do you need to let anyone know?
  • Would it be a good idea to invite someone along who understands your position, if they’re allowed in your support bubble or can get involved in the video call?
  • What will be your escape route if you’re attending an event in person?
  • What devices will you use to deal with difficult scenarios?

Once you have a plan of action and a safety net in place, you will find it easier to relax and feel more confident about what’s ahead. Another good idea is to replace old drinking rituals with newfound hobbies and meetings that you really enjoy, so that you can look forward to activities that won’t compromise your health.

The support network over the Christmas period

Make yourself aware of the dates and times of 12-step fellowship meetings taking place over the Christmas period. There will be many still going ahead over Zoom, which is what many people in recovery have already become accustomed to during the pandemic.

Many Alcoholics Anonymous groups have meetings on the hour, every hour, so you don’t have to suffer through the season’s difficulties alone. The best part is that you don’t have to be a member to join in the groups.

Consider your wider support network too. Will they be available over Christmas for a call? It could be the case that friends, loved ones and sponsors have more time free this year, with many venues closed and the imposed limitations on meeting with others. As always, do not be afraid to ask your family and friends for support. Keep a list of people you can turn to if things don’t turn out as expected. Keep the list with you on your mobile at all times. Your phone will be a useful tool in those moments when you need immediate help from a supportive friend, especially as we’re all more isolated from each other this year.

Don’t isolate yourself

There can often be a temptation to deal with Christmas by hiding away from it, particularly in a year when we’ve all grown accustomed to spending more time away from others. However, seeking comfort by retreating further into solitude can bring its own demons. Coupled with a lack of exercise, boredom and isolation, this can lead to depression, unhealthy living and your recovery being under threat.

Regular exercise can lift your mood instantly and is undeniably rewarding. Many people have come to appreciate exercise this year as the way we spend our time outside the home has been more restricted. In addition, there has been a huge increase of online fitness groups and tutorials, so there are plenty of options for exercising indoors too. It can also open the door to new hobbies that benefit your wellbeing, such as yoga, Tai Chi, skating, and running.

Another good way to connect with people is by helping others, and Christmas is the ideal time for this. It will feel so gratifying to do something for someone else, as well as helping you to feel a part of something. Consider joining a charitable organisation or volunteering at a support group, even if it’s remote assistance – there will be plenty of helplines over Christmas which would love extra people to take calls.

Write down your feelings

Nothing is more therapeutic than writing down your feelings. Count your blessings by writing out a gratitude list every day, which will help you to stay mindful.

You may also want to try writing a letter to yourself titled: ‘How I stayed sober at Christmas’, which you can use to envisage how your ideal Christmas in recovery will play out in advance. You will be surprised how this can generate ideas, enhance confidence and ultimately lead to a genuinely happy and safe festive season.

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