“After eating way too much Turkey and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, I would really like to hibernate for a week. Instead my anxiety is kicking in, and I’m starting to worry about Christmas! Only a month away, I still have meal planning to think about, gifts to purchase, and parties to attend. And my recovery hangs in the balance.”
“Christmas and New Years aren’t the same since I quit drinking. Alcohol helped me numb social anxiety and painful family memories and interactions. Not to mention how drinking helped numb the stress of hostessing and cooking for large numbers of people. And then there were the after holiday shots for the self loathing and anxiety about gaining weight from out-of-control eating.”
Does this sound familiar? While the holidays are meant to be a time of celebration, connection, and relaxation, for many of us the holidays can be a huge trigger for substance abuse addictions, eating disorders, and other compulsive behaviors.
How can we keep our addictions from pulling us under during the holiday season?
Take Charge of Your Holiday Experience
We must remember that our rules for living in recovery still apply during the whirlwind of the holiday season. Just because lots of people you know are running to and fro, and feel compelled to cook, buy lots of stuff, and attend parties doesn’t mean you must be pulled along with them. Instead you can follow some basic self-care principles that will protect your recovery.
Five Rules for Holiday Self Care:
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
2. Acknowledge Your Needs
3. Don’t attend parties where there will be drinking and drugging (There is a way to compromise when family members drink, but KNOW where your boundaries are!!!)
4. Give yourself permission to create new rituals around the holidays that support your recovery
5. Slow down, breathe, and create space for peace and relaxation
For me, this means I don’t host family dinners any more. The stress was a huge trigger for me. When I know there will be drinking at a Christmas Dinner, I stay home with my husband and cook a delicious meal for the two of us, watch Christmas movies, and then show up for a couple of hours at the end of the family party. This minimizes my stress and exposure to drinking and tempting foods. Not only that, but I have been able to create beautiful and meaningful rituals of my own.
Do something different this year.
Give yourself the most satisfying gift of all:—Permission to Meet Your Needs.
Abigail Lockett, MA, RAS