The winter holiday season is a time of great joy for many people. However, the holidays can be anything but merry for those struggling with addiction. For example, stress levels can run high as families clash during gatherings. There’s pressure to achieve the perfect holiday and overdo shopping, decorating, cooking and baking. Also, there’s seemingly a constant flow of “holiday cheer” – whether it’s alcohol or another harmful substance – at every turn. All of these factors and more can trigger a relapse.

As with any potentially difficult situation, the key to navigating the season is to be prepared. Here are seven tips to help those in recovery thrive through the holidays:

  1. Plan Ahead: Have a game plan before attending parties or gatherings. Arrive early and leave early. Bring a sober companion to events if you need emotional support. Avoid alcohol and drugs – saying “no” to harmful substances is saying “yes” to sobriety and your overall health.
  • Stay Connected: Call at least one person in your recovery support system every day to keep you grounded and motivated. Attend in-person or virtual meetings regularly. If traveling, go to local meetings and stay in touch with your support network.
  • Nourish Your Mind, Body and Soul: Self-care means valuing yourself and your own worth. With so many activities crammed into your schedule, set aside at least a few minutes of quiet time daily to recenter yourself. Take a yoga class or a warm bath. Eat well, going easy on sweets and treats. Meditate or go for a walk out in nature. Practice gratitude.
  • Avoid Triggers: Identify and note your triggers as well as have a plan to deal with emotions that may arise unexpectedly. Don’t over-commit or try to do too much. Stick to a routine and stay on track.
  • Create New Traditions: Celebrate your new way of life with like-minded friends and healthy activities. Find new hobbies or interests that don’t involve harmful substances and consider hosting sober gatherings.
  • Give Back: This time is also a season of giving. Reach out to someone who needs help. Volunteer at meetings. Bring a message of hope to someone who is sick, suffering or could use support.
  • Don’t Quit Before the Miracle: Remember, every moment in sobriety is a miracle. If you fall, get up. There’s always something better ahead. Celebrate your achievements and focus on the rewards of recovery. Always take each day one step at a time.

Maintaining recovery is the top priority during the holidays and throughout the year. If you or a loved one needs support this holiday season, call 1-800-RECOVERY for help.

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