Maintaining Holiday Sobriety
Bay Area and Sacramento Detox and Addiction Treatment
∙ Understand Holiday Stress and Relapse Triggers
∙ Uncover Holiday Myths and Adjust Expectations
∙ Common Holiday Myths and Unrealistic Beliefs
∙ Stress Reduction with Conscious Breathing
∙ Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 Breathing Technique (video)
For many reasons – holidays are difficult for everyone. Sober holidays are especially challenging for recovering alcoholics and substance users.
There is a long-standing tradition and history of holiday over-indulgence involving food and alcoholic drinks.
For a sober holiday season – those in recovery are encountering not just a current holiday drinking culture. Hundreds of years of alcohol-fueled holiday celebrations are a part of our history.
There were all kinds of entertainments on offer over the Christmas period. Drinking alcohol was the most popular of all. And the fact that merry-making could easily get out of hand is attested by the common custom of lords paying special watchmen to guard their estates in case of riots. A record from an estate near Saint Paul‘s Cathedral in London tells us that watchmen were set from Christmas Day to Twelfth Night and that these men were recompensed by ‘a good fire in the hall, one white loaf, one cooked dish, and a gallon of ale [per day]’. Even if drinking such large quantities was relatively common and the ale weak, with four and a half litres of ale per watchman it is a wonder they themselves did not get a bit rowdy.A Medieval Christmas
Understand Holiday Stress and Relapse Triggers
When recovering from addiction – it is important to have a relapse prevention plan in place at all times – but especially during major holidays.
Holidays bring out conflicts of all kinds that we tend to ignore most of the year. Sources of holiday stress include unresolved family relationships and interactions, financial stresses, relationship stresses – or lack of relationship and holiday loneliness.
For example, a recent poll by the American Psychological Association found that 61% of U.S. adults identified money as a significant stressor, second only to the 66% of those employed who said work was the leading source of stress. And a LendingTree survey found that 48% of U.S. consumers are dreading the holiday season and its related costs.
The added stresses of the holidays encourage many individuals to substance abuse as well as alcohol abuse.
Whether struggling with addiction or not: Holidays can activate triggers that lead to drug use and alcohol abuse. While alcohol or drug use may seem to help at first – alcohol or drug use is never a solution and only makes things worse.
How can we enjoy sober holidays and safely navigate the holiday season –
enjoying time spent with friends and family – without feeling triggered to drink or drug?
Sober Holidays Tip: Uncover Holiday Myths and Adjust Expectations
Many Americans experience a collective cultural ‘mythology’ during the month of December. Unrealistic expectations can be an especially serious issue for those in addiction recovery. It is important to know, understand and avoid potential stumbling blocks before encountering them.
Learn to recognize your personal holiday stress triggers – including financial pressures, frustrations or personal demands – so that you can practice mindfulness and deal with the stresses before they lead to a meltdown.
Takeaway: LIFE HAPPENS
• Frustrations will occur – even in holiday seasons.
• Don’t sweat the small stuff.
• And for larger issues – be patient with yourself.
• Work on mindfully handling issues.
Sober Holidays Tip: Stress Reduction with Conscious Breathing
Holistic health advocate Dr. Andrew Weil believes Conscious Breathing can be a useful tool for achieving a calmer mental or physical state.
As the Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said:
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
When feeling stressed during the day – take two minutes for a Conscious Breaking Break. The 4-7-8 Breath (also known as the Relaxing Breath) is a quick and portable stress antidote. It puts the practitioner in a relaxed state almost immediately. As Dr. Weil demonstrates in the video below – it takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere.
Dr. Andrew Weil Explains How to Do his 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
Sober Holidays Tip: Coping With the Holiday Season Alone
Spending time alone during holiday season is not a personal failure. Being alone for the holidays is a statement about the current environment – not your ability or your worth.
For many, spending Christmas alone will be the safest option to avoid COVID-19. Although some will choose to travel during the holidays – others will determine that holiday travel is still not safe this year.
Let’s look at some steps to make spending holidays alone this year more enjoyable.
Ways to Combat Holiday Loneliness
• Self-compassion, gratitude, and positive affirmations are important for emotional balance.
• Remember those annoying relatives? You won’t be spending time with them. (Bonus!)
• Keep in touch with friends and family. Use video calling, Zoom or phone calls.
• Create new traditions – virtually.
• Drive-by Christmas light viewing is fun!
• Indulge in Self-Care.
• Attend Online Groups and Meetings.
• Listen to Recovery or Inspirational Podcasts
• Focus on Healthy Routines and Nutrition.
• Create a daily activities list and keep it as full as possible.
• Create a Gratitude List.
• Consider game nights, bad sweater contests, white elephant gifting or caroling – in-person or via video calls.
• Try to spend at least 10 minutes outside daily.
• Consider becoming a plant parent. Why Indoor Plants Make You Feel Better
• If you have SAD, invest in a Light Therapy Box. Best Light Therapy Lamp, Reviews
• Try winter celebration alcohol-free drinks.
• Reach out if you need help. If substance abuse is an issue, call us at 866-303-6275
Taking Care of Your Emotional Health
Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress from the CDC
Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping and eating can all be normal reactions to stress. Below are some healthy ways you can deal with stress.
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed but hearing about the traumatic event constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple of times a day and disconnecting from phone, tv, and computer screens for a while.
Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and give yourself a break if you feel stressed out.
Take care of your body.
∙ Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
∙ Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
∙ Exercise regularly.
∙ Get plenty of sleep.
∙ Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.
∙ Continue with routine preventive measures (such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc.) as recommended by your healthcare provider.
Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
Talk to others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor.
Connect with your community or faith-based organizations.
Avoid drugs and alcohol. These may seem to help, but they can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
Recognize when you need more help. If problems continue or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker, or professional counselor.
Sober Holidays: Resources for Handling Holiday Stress
CDC Guide – Taking Care of Your Emotional Health
Coping With Loneliness During the Holidays
APA Holiday Stress Resource Center: What you can do to avoid or minimize holiday stress inducers
Happy Sober Holidays 2020 Bay Area and Northern California
Veterans: Tips for Staying Sober Holidays
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