Moving into recovery and going to rehab is just the first step to the very long uphill battle of recovery. If you’re a Christian in recovery, the holiday period can be daunting and difficult. Millions of Americans see Christmas and the holidays as the one point in the year when they should automatically be and feel happy, be close to family and friends, and overall enjoy themselves. For someone in recovery, that isn’t always possible. Your relationships with family may be tumultuous, much of your social circle might rely heavily on alcohol for that “feel-good” atmosphere, and you might be lonely. It’s easy to romanticize the “good old days” when you could just have a party and forget everything.
You’ve worked hard on your sobriety. As a Christian, you also have a lot of resources and places to go to take part in helping, contributing, and enjoying the holidays, not drunk or high but as someone enjoying themselves, people, and life. Going through the holiday season without drugs and alcohol can be difficult. You may be tempted. You may have trouble. Your goal should be to plan your time and your accountability, so that you can stay clean and sober.
Whether you’re spending time mostly working, have a few weeks off, or don’t have to worry about how you spend your time, it’s crucial to remember that you want to have fun. Even if holidays have, historically, been less than great, you’re still accustomed to this rosy painted picture of what Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s should be. You want to feel good about yourself and about others. Plan to have fun, to do fun things, and to enjoy yourself. Depending on your area, you might have very little to do or a lot. Consider Christmas light tours, ice skating, and other safe, social-distance-friendly activities.
It’s important to remember that if you set expectations for a period, you’ll feel restless and bored if you do nothing. That feeling makes people more likely to relapse, simply because you need an outlet. You don’t need drugs or alcohol for that outlet, you just need to do fun things. What’s fun for you? Boredom can and will contribute to relapse. Even if you’re just planning to call friends and family over Skype, to cut down your own tree, to build a snowman, or go hiking, make sure you plan things that are enjoyable.
Good resources include your church, your 12-Step community, and sober friends and family. Many local programs will offer events designed to be as safe as possible. If you have some spare time and want to participate, consider volunteering with your local church or at a soup kitchen.
Holidays can be incredibly demanding. Not only will you put demands on yourself, your family and friends will too. Chances are, you’ll be asked to hang lights, shovel snow, go to this event or that, help prepare dinner, and help with dozens of other things. You might be asked to attend parties and events with alcohol present. You might find yourself staying over with family for a longer period, even if they’re difficult and emotionally exhausting to deal with.
Setting boundaries for yourself is important for your sobriety. Make sure you learn to say no, to pace yourself, and to be honest when deciding what you can and cannot reasonably handle. Overstretching yourself, putting yourself in situations where you feel lonely, being exhausted, and otherwise feeling bad can contribute to relapse. Learn to say no, pace yourself, and make sure you have energy and peace of mind every day.
Your friends and family cannot respect your needs in recovery if you don’t communicate them. While it can be difficult to talk to friends and family about recovery, it’s crucial that you do so. This also applies to your church or congregation. If you haven’t discussed sobriety and recovery, it’s critical that you do so before the holidays. Why? More than 80% of Americans drink and often heavily over the holidays. Letting people know upfront that you won’t be partaking and why can make things easier. In some cases, your family will be willing to have a sober party or more accepting of the fact that you might want to leave if they start drinking.
Similarly, letting your congregation know upfront is a good way to ensure that you have support. If your church is likely to pass around alcohol, it also ensures that they will skip you.
Whether you’re getting support from church, 12-Step, or from God, it’s important that you continue making time to do so. Set aside time for daily reflection and prayer, continue going to AA or NA meetings, and attend service as usual. If you have a sober buddy or Sponsor, consider asking them and making arrangements for extra support in case you start having trouble. If you’re going home for the holidays and will be in a different town, consider making sure you can still check in via video if your local chapter has gone remote. If not, you can likely do so as a guest in your new location.
Making time for reflection, talking to God, and accountability can be difficult, especially when the holidays are already hectic. However, they can help you to slow down, to recognize what you are really getting and want from your holidays, and to stay clean and sober.
The holidays can be a time to indulge, to shop, and to cook decadent holiday meals. Yet, while a bit of overindulging every now and then never hurt anyone, it’s important to maintain your routines and your health. If you’ve been to rehab you know that daily routines like exercise, cooking, and taking care of the home are critical to your ongoing recovery. Your body is your temple to God and taking care of it is crucial to your health. What does that mean over the holidays? Try making sure you get at least 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise a day (Walking is fine), have a healthy breakfast, and stay hydrated. Don’t overdo it.
Too much sugar is, of course, a bad call for anyone recovering from a substance use disorder, but a bit of overindulgence over the holidays is likely fine.
Getting clean and sober is not easy, it requires dedication, motivation, and continued effort. No matter how much support you receive from God, friends, family, and loved ones along the way, you still put in that effort yourself. You’re highly motivated to stay clean and sober. Why? Make sure those reasons are at the front of your mind when you do face cravings.
The holidays should be a time of enjoyment and happiness. For many of us, they’re a time of expectations, responsibilities, and stress. Working to balance both to have fun with family and friends, while setting reasonable expectations, will help. You will likely run into drugs and alcohol and you will experience cravings, but if you’re prepared, you can say no and maintain your sobriety. And, with a little time set aside to remind yourself of why you’re fighting, you can retain the peace of mind you need to enjoy yourself and your sobriety.
If you or a loved one is currently struggling with alcohol or drugs, it might be time to check out a Christian Substance Abuse Rehab Program. Speak with one of our experienced treatment advisors today at (844) 577-1234 for a free assessment.