Holiday


Thanksgiving tableIn the early stages of recovery, you’re learning new ways to cope with everyday situations. Developing healthy habits is a big task, especially during the holiday season. If this will be your first sober Thanksgiving, stay on the path to recovery with these 8 helpful tips.

1. Be Grateful.

Thanksgiving is all about counting your blessings and there’s no greater blessing than being in recovery. Writing down your blessings in a journal is an excellent way to remind yourself of your commitment to your sobriety while getting into the spirit of the Thanksgiving celebration. Sending personal notes to those who’ve helped with your recovery is another great way to show your gratitude. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a natural born writer, you can’t go wrong with a heartfelt note of appreciation.

2. Start a New Tradition.

If drinking is normally a big part of your Thanksgiving celebration, consider this year an opportunity to start a new alcohol-free tradition. You could organize a team trivia contest, play a friendly game of flag football, create a silly photo booth complete with assorted costumes and props, or give back to your community by volunteering at a local homeless shelter. There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate Thanksgiving, as long as you’re making memories with the people who mean the most to you.

3. Make Plans for Self-Care.

If you’re struggling with depression or social anxiety, crowded holiday gatherings can be overwhelming. Even if you’re genuinely excited to see everyone, a packed room might be hard to handle.

Taking the time to meditate or engage in some relaxing yoga poses before the event begins is an excellent way to keep stress levels in check. Bringing items to help you calm down, such as headphones and relaxing music, calming essential oil spray, or a fun mini adult coloring book, can also be helpful.

4. Don’t Throw Good Nutrition Out the Window.

While Thanksgiving is a time to indulge, keep in mind that healthy eating habits help support your recovery. Start your meal with a salad packed with fiber rich veggies, choose moderate portions of your favorite entrees and side dishes, then finish with a special dessert. Make a point to eat slowly and give your full attention to your food so you can savor every last bite.

One common mistake that people make when planning their Thanksgiving holiday is coming to the feast on an empty stomach. If you let yourself get too hungry, you’ll be more likely to eat to excess. Being hungry can also make it harder to regulate your emotions and control your cravings for drugs or alcohol.

5. Bring Your Own Beverage.

Ideally, your host should provide a non-alcoholic beverage choice for guests who don’t drink. Unfortunately, this is a detail that not everyone remembers. Avoid a sticky situation by simply bringing your own non-alcoholic beverage option.

Sparkling cider, herbal tea, flavored water, or a fruity non-alcoholic punch are excellent beverage choices for a Thanksgiving meal. Bring enough to share and you may find yourself surprised by how many guests decide to spend the day sober with you.

6. Stay Busy.

Keeping yourself busy throughout the event will help calm your nerves and reduce the intensity of any cravings you might have. Volunteer to help set the table, put the finishing touches on a few side dishes, or entertain any impatient young children. Your helpfulness will be appreciated and you’ll make new memories in the process.

7. Go to a Meeting.

It’s common for 12 step programs to host multiple meetings throughout the holidays, so there’s probably one near wherever you are traveling. Connecting with others in recovery can help you stay on the right path. If desired, you could use this opportunity to invite a supportive friend or family member to attend an open meeting with you.

8. Plan an Escape Route.

Hopefully you won’t need to use it, but it’s always a good idea to come up with a graceful way to exit a situation that starts to feel like it’s just too much. Consider having a friend on standby who can send a text or call with an “emergency” that lets you leave the party early if needed.

Another easy way to exit a situation is to simply inform everyone ahead of time that you have another appointment later in the day and will need to leave early. This strategy works well for situations where you know that you won’t be feeling up to socializing for the entire event.

By Dana Hinders

If you or someone you love needs addiction treatment, please call St. Joseph Institute at 888-352-3297.

 

Staying Sober During the Holidays

Valentine’s Day is all about showing your love and appreciation for your significant other, but date night can feel awkward when you’re newly sober. Instead of worrying about how you’ll avoid the drinks at your favorite restaurant or club, why not plan an alternative Valentine’s Day date?

Create a Custom Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt can be a unique way to celebrate Valentine’s Day if you’re willing to put in the prep time. If you’ve been together for several years, your clues can lead to locations such as where you went on your first date, where you had your first kiss, and where you said “I love you” for the first time. If you’re a new couple, you can use simpler riddles leading to basic locations such as the glove box of your sweetheart’s car or inside her coat pocket. Whichever approach you choose, just make sure to be standing by with hints in case your partner has trouble deciphering each clue.

Don’t forget to have a special surprise waiting at the end of the hunt. Try a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a scrapbook of memories you’ve shared together, or tickets to an upcoming concert or sporting event.

Plan a Movie Marathon
Cuddling with your sweetheart under a cozy blanket while you share a tub of buttery popcorn is indescribably romantic. The possibilities are endless with this Valentine’s Day date idea, but here are a few film suggestions to inspire your creativity:

  • Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
  • Ghost with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze
  • Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet
  • 50 First Dates with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler
  • Twilight with Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart
  • The Notebook with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdam

If you’d rather forgo the overly romantic movies, try sharing your favorite films with each other or binge watching a TV show on Netflix you’ve always wanted to see.

Get Moving
Any activity that keeps you moving will take your mind off your first sober Valentine’s Day. Physical activity releases endorphins, leading to feelings of closeness and connection. Biking or hiking through a favorite park or nature trail is always fun, especially if you plan a special picnic lunch at the end of the day.

For the young at heart, miniature golf is another wonderful Valentine’s Day date idea. Some mini golf courses also have go-karts, batting cages, paintball, or laser tag— giving you endless activity possibilities.

Learn Something New
The recovery process involves replacing past destructive behavior patterns with positive new coping mechanisms. One way to do this is by exploring new hobbies that you can enjoy by yourself or with your partner.

Community colleges have a number of adult continuing education classes you can take. Cooking and ballroom dancing classes tend to be the most popular choices for couples, but you’ll also find classes covering everything from aromatherapy to how to plant a garden in your backyard.

If you can’t find a class that interests you and your partner, plan to master a new skill together at home. For example:

  • Buy the ingredients to make each other a plate of homemade truffles instead of a store-bought box of chocolates.
  • Pick up a pair of white coffee mugs and oil-based paint Sharpie markers, then get in touch with your artistic side to make each other a sweet keepsake of your love.
  • Read each other classic love poems, then try to write your own romantic poetry.

Museums are another wonderful place to go when you’re looking for a drug and alcohol free way to expand your mind. Whether you’re passionate about art, history, or science, there are an abundance of museums to explore in almost every city in the country. Look for one offering guided tours, then plan to stop at the gift shop for a special memento of the day.

holidaysFor people in recovery, New Year’s Eve can present a minefield of obstacles to staying sober that aren’t present on other holidays. There is the idea that celebrating the change from one year to the next is linked with popping corks and consuming alcohol. Anyone who plans a quiet evening or who doesn’t join a party may feel as though they are “missing out” on the festivities.

To keep your goal of staying sober on New Year’s Eve intact, you need to start with a plan. The strategies listed here will help you stay aware of the pitfalls at New Year’s Eve parties while giving you suggestions about avoiding the temptation to drink.

Tips for Staying Sober When Celebrating New Year’s Eve

Plan new traditions for your new lifestyle
You’re no longer the same person you were when you were drinking. Your New Year’s Eve celebration doesn’t have to be the same, either. Let go of any pressure to keep doing things the same way, “…because this is the way we’ve always done it.”

Look for family-friendly activities as an alternative parties
Instead of going to a party where you know alcohol will be served, consider going to a family-friendly activity in your community. Many of these are available for free or at low cost. Your local library, community news channel, and chamber of commerce website are all good sources of information for what’s going on in your community.

Attend parties where drinking is not the focus of the evening
Choose the types of parties you attend carefully. Dinner and dancing is a much better option than a cocktail party. If the evening’s festivities include some type of event or activity, as opposed to simply consuming alcohol, it’s a much better option.

Bring someone to the party with you
A good friend can keep you engaged in conversation so you don’t get bored while making sure you leave the party before you start to get tired. Both of these are red flags that you might be vulnerable to having a drink. The person you bring could be a friend, relative or your sponsor. Make sure the person you choose will support you in maintaining your sobriety throughout the evening.

Rehearse saying “no” to alcoholic drinks in advance
If you decide to attend a New Year’s Eve party and you know that alcohol will be served, go over how you will turn down an invitation to have an alcoholic drink. Keep in mind that you don’t have to explain your reasons for not wanting to drink alcohol.

There are plenty of people who don’t drink because they are taking medication, they are driving home after the party and don’t want their judgment to be impaired, or for religious reasons. A simple, “No, thank you, I’ll just stick to Diet Coke” will suffice. If anyone questions you about your choice, simply repeat your response. Then stop addressing the question.

Very few people will be rude enough to push the issue. If they do, you can always walk away from the conversation. Or leave the party entirely.

Limit the time you spend at a New Year’s Eve party
You don’t have to stay at a New Year’s Eve party until midnight and you don’t have to arrive early in the evening, either. Limiting the amount of time you spend around people who are drinking will make you less likely to be tempted to join them.

Plan something fun for New Year’s Day
The fun of New Year’s celebrations doesn’t have to be wrapped up into one evening. Plan an activity for New Year’s Day that you can look forward to. Friends and family can get together to see a movie, visit a museum, go ice skating or tobogganing (with hot chocolate afterward) or play cards board games together.

If the fun will continue into the next day (or beyond), there is less pressure to make one party or celebration the one time that attendees have to pull out all the stops. Without that pressure, you may feel less tempted to have a drink. It’s New Year’s Eve and it’s a party, but you have other times when you can have fun as well.

If you slip on New Year’s Eve…

Despite your best efforts, you may slip at a New Year’s Eve party and have a drink. Some people think that one drink means their entire sobriety is ruined and that there is nothing they can do but continue the slide into a full-blown relapse. This is not true.

If you slip on New Year’s Eve (or any other day of the year), recognize it for what it is. Call your sponsor. Go to a meeting. Do what you need to do to get your recovery back on track, including seeking professional addiction treatment.

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