At any time, someone may become so overwhelmed by certain emotions they revert to unhealthy habits.
For someone previously addicted to drugs or alcohol, this tendency isn’t greater or worse—just different.
Resiliency has a lot to do with how we react to negative circumstances. The definition of resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; a toughness.” Not everyone responds to stress or harsh events the same way. There are many causes for this, including:
- Environmental factors
- Previous trauma and stressful events
- Self-esteem and confidence
- The ability to manage impulses and strong emotions
- The capability to not only make realistic plans, but also carry them out
Facing the holidays requires a certain level of resilience. Although often a happy time for most people, the whirlwind of activities, a heightened level of expectations, and the crunch of overscheduling can task even the most organized person.
For someone in recovery, the holiday season may not always be merry and bright for other reasons. If there are unresolved factors from your past, challenges you still have to reconcile in recovery, or other aspects that test your resiliency, this time of year might shine a spotlight on those struggles. There’s the potential for relapse as you try to escape the pressure.
Fortunately, you can plan ahead to increase your ability to stay strong, allow for necessary quiet time, and enjoy measured moments to their fullest.
Build Your Resiliency
You’ve had many opportunities to access resources not only during inpatient rehabilitation treatment, but during extended care as well. Maybe you rely on a 12-Step or SMART program for daily or bi-weekly meetings; attend church services; or have some other type of regular support program to turn to.
Establishing connections through reliable support networks is top of the list for improving your resiliency, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Your support team reminds of you of the reasons sobriety matters, how hard you worked to achieve it, and reinforces your ability to stay on course.
The APA offers these additional methods for building your resiliency during the holidays and beyond:
- Accept change as a part of life. Dealing with changes can be difficult, but establishing a level of acceptance helps you manage the ebbs and flows. During the holiday season, it might be important to recognize that customs or traditions alter, but you still have the opportunity to make the most of each day.
- Avoid labeling crisis situations as “insurmountable problems.” While you can’t always control adverse situations, how you react to them is totally within your ability. Do what you can to minimize the stress of a situation, and acknowledge that you’ll have to work through it.
- Continue to have a hopeful attitude. Too often, we have to deal with tough memories or a sense of loss during the holidays. It’s okay to feel sadness for a moment, but balance that with gratitude for what you have now and how your life will be enriched in the future.
- Maintain healthy habits. It’s all too easy to skip the gym, sleep too little, and indulge in sugary, fatty treats this time of year. Remember to stay on top of all the wellness rituals that reinforce your sobriety. You’ll feel better while still enjoying the best aspects of each celebration.
- Keep an even perspective. Mingling with friends and family during the rush of the season can sometimes result in points left unsaid, misdirected comments, events not going quite right, or hurt feelings. Do your best to not blow things out of proportion. This isn’t the time to expect perfection. If you feel it’s important to circle back around to someone or something for clarity, do so with a rationale mind at a calmer time.
- Nurture yourself. This advice frequently pops up when talking about the potential for relapse. When we feel hurried, stretched beyond our limits, overscheduled, or any of the other common stressful aspects of the season, self-care is often the first thing lost. So stay true to what helps you: quiet time before an event; journaling about the past and how you relate to it now; leaving a gathering early so you can get plenty of rest; attending some additional support meetings, and so on. Taking care of your needs first quells compulsive tendencies.
Be Honest About Your Triggers
Environmental and emotional triggers are often hard to deal with during this time of year for a lot of people, not just those in recovery. For you to plan to have a sober holiday season, it’s important to acknowledge all you’ve learned about what contributes to substance abuse, and work to minimize:
This might mean you don’t socialize with certain friends or family members this year until you feel ready for their personalities and the atmosphere they create. You may have to host a sober gathering to enjoy the company of people you care about without the specter of drugs or alcohol lurking in the background. Maybe you can reinforce your sense of purpose by volunteering to help others have a joyful season.
And sometimes, you have to say no. It’s totally fine to refuse an invitation with a polite response, such as, “Your thoughtfulness is greatly appreciated, but I’ll have to decline this time.” A simple statement like this acknowledges the person extending the invite, and doesn’t close the door to future events. You’re not required to offer a reason unless you want to.
How Willingway Can Help
Free Willingway Continuing Care community groups happen weekly in a variety of cities throughout the Southeast. These informal meetings discuss many aspects of recovery, including how to face certain challenges during the holidays and beyond.
If you’d like additional ways to establish stronger resilience, these groups may help. What’s more, you don’t have to be an alumnus of Willingway to attend. The groups are open to anyone looking for strength and hope in recovery.