12 Tips for 12 Days to Stay on the Recovery Track during the Holidays
Everybody can get a little sad and shaky around the holidays. Even Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n Roll, sang about a “Blue Christmas.” It’s challenging for people struggling with substance use or in recovery to maintain steady ground at this time of year. Although the holidays are supposed to be cheerful, they present a lot of stress. How can you refrain from using alcohol or other substances and get through this time unscathed? Try these 12 tactics for staying in recovery during the 12 days of Christmas. They may inspire you to come up with your own.
1: Smiling and Surviving the Get Together(s)
Holiday gatherings with family and even friends can be trying. There are questions and comments and, of course, spiked egg nog and holiday toasts. Bring your own beverage, e.g., cider or sparkling cider. Listen and politely smile – not a dumb smile, a genuinely pleasant smile; sometimes smiling on the outside does wonders for your psyche. Stay busy – help prepare and plate food, serve, and clean. Keep things light by bringing a board game or suggest one like charades. If you reach your limit and get too uncomfortable, say fond farewells and leave.
2: Say ‘No’
Not every holiday gathering is right for you. If you sense one will be particularly jarring, politely turn down the invitation. It may not be easy to decline the offer, but it may be preferable to navigating a series of landmine. Gauge the potential carefully beforehand and make the best decision for you. Or host your own get together and design it around your own wants and needs.
3: ‘Shake It Off’
Take a tip from Taylor Swift and push the nasty digs and dips in mood aside. A great way is to get moving. Go for a walk. The exercise and air will do you good. Give head nods or hellos to people you encounter along the way – spread cheer. Look at store and house seasonal decorations. Do you belong to a gym? Go, go, go! Or simply turn on music at home and dance around, let yourself go to shake it off.
Seek out volunteer opportunities. Charitable organizations look for helping hands at this time. It’s fun to pitch in and gratifying too. It takes a little research and planning to start. Speak with a local hospital/VA hospital to check their needs, determine what you can do and how to make this happen. The same goes for a food bank/pantry, soup kitchen, homeless shelter, animal shelter, Meals on Wheels, nursing home or assisted living facility. Check online, pick up the phone, or stop by in person.
5: Get Out and About
Attend community events, such as group sings, programs at the library, a museum, an art gallery. Go to church. Enjoy!
6: Go to Meeting(s) and Sober Holiday Events
Head to AA or NA meetings, as many and as often as you see fit. Check with members and the community at large to find a New Year’s Eve sober event. This could be a private party with like people in recovery. Or it could be a public gathering advertised as a sober event.
7: Indulge and Entertain Yourself
Coddle yourself with a warm shower or bubble bath, spread out your exercise mat and do yoga, stretch, or weight lift in your own living space. Get comfy and watch TV, stream a show or series you’ve been meaning to get into – now’s the time. Stay on the light side and, when appropriate, laugh out loud!
8: Cook Up Some Yummy Food
Tackle a recipe for a scrumptious entrée or make a creation of your own. Bake something sweet. Why should pets be the only ones to get treats? Treat yourself by making something special. Is there a dish that is your all-time fave? Whip it up. Now is a great time for comfort foods of all kinds. Cook a batch of spaghetti with fixings, stir fry, breakfast for dinner, whatever sets your palate aflutter. Yum!
9: Clean and Conquer, Organize, and Overcome
Attack the clutter, organize your phone and computer, dig into your closets. Instill order and do away with mess. Things will look better and you will feel that way too. A little effort goes a long way. Donate unwanted items that are in good condition.
Take on a creative project. Draw, paint, write a poem, capture your random thoughts. Let your mind come up with words to a song, music to a song – both. Snap photos.
11: Fashion the New You
Greet the New Year with a new you. Shave the beard, grow a beard, cut your hair, restyle your hair. Try a new hair color, new hair style.
12: Resolve to Get Treatment
Do you need a treatment tune up? Or, if you’re not in treatment, plan to get help. It’s the path to forging a productive future. Look into alternatives. Figure out the way forward. Deciding to take action is comforting in itself and a springboard to the best possibilities that lie ahead.
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