December 18, 2012

10 Holiday Survival Tips for Alcoholics in Recovery

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The holidays are not always “merry and bright”. For many, the season brings stress, exhaustion, financial worry and family tensions. It’s a challenging time to start a journey to recovery, but there are those who are ready to begin. People who’ve admitted that their lives have become unmanageable. (Step 1 of AA) Individuals who’ve “hit their bottom”. For these fortunate ones seeking the road to recovery, there are many excellent rehab facilities in Massachusetts . And for those already on the road who desperately want to hold on to their sobriety this season, we offer a few helpful tips.

1. Avoid Resentment

Focus on your reasons for not drinking in positive terms. Instead of thinking, “poor me, everyone’s drinking and I can’t”, remember why you can’t. You’re an alcoholic, not a social drinker. For you, it’s a fatal progressive disease. Remind yourself of the benefits. No hangover, guilt or shame the next morning. No questions about what you did last night. No blackouts. No incidents. Wake feeling healthy, with pride and self-respect that you got through another 24 hours, and you’re still on the path to a life that’s ‘happy, joyous and free”.

2. Be the Designated Driver

When you accept the responsibility for getting others home safely it can be a strong motivation to avoid alcohol yourself. It’s also a perfect answer to anyone’s curious inquiry as to why you aren’t drinking. “Designated driver!” Simple as that.

3. Have an Answer Ready

Other than your closest friends and family, people don’t need to know about your alcoholism. If they ask why you’re not drinking, have an answer ready. Here are a few possibilities:

Want a drink?
No thanks, I’m on meds that don’t mix with alcohol.
I can’t. Every time I drink I get a migraine.
No thanks, too many calories.
Not tonight, I’m driving.
No thanks, I’ve had enough. (True, right?!)
Maybe later.
I’m going to have something to eat first.
Sure. Just a Diet Coke for now.
Nothing right now, I may get something later.

Why aren’t you drinking?
Have to be up really early tomorrow.
I’m the designated driver.
It hasn’t been agreeing with me lately.
I have an allergy to alcohol (this is true!)
I’m trying to get healthy. Eating better, working out, etc.
Do you know how many calories there are in one drink!?

4. Pick Up The Phone

If you’ve gone through treatment at one of the rehab facilities in Massachusetts, you probably have a network of supportive counselors and recovering addicts. If you’re a member of a 12-step program, you likely have a sponsor, and a group of sober friends. Reach out to these people for support and encouragement. Be inspired by others who are working hard to stay sober during the holidays. Ask them how they’re doing it. Tell them how you’re doing it. Stay connected. Remember that you’re not alone in this!

5. Go to An Alkathon

People struggling to stay sober can feel very alone at the holidays. That’s why Alcoholics Anonymous holds holiday Alkathons. These are round-the-clock marathon meetings where recovering alcoholics share their “experience, strength and hope” throughout the day. Food, coffee and the camaraderie of recovery can lift spirits and energize the commitment to stay sober. Call your local AA Hotline for a location near you.

6. Leave the Party Early

If you can’t avoid attending a holiday event where alcohol will be served, have an “escape plan”! Bring your own car so you can leave the situation if the pressure to drink is too great. If you don’t have your own car, have the phone number of a sober friend who would be willing to come and pick you up.

7. Don’t Serve Alcohol

If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, do NOT keep alcohol in your home. Alcohol is more powerful than even your strongest resolve. You may say that “It’s only for the guests”, but alcoholism is an addiction that can overtake your best intentions to stay sober – especially if it’s under your roof and right under your nose. Your guests can make it through the evening without a drink. Put the focus on amazing holiday foods, or special non-alcoholic drinks like spiced eggnog, hot cider and fancy punches.

8. Take Care of Yourself

Good self-care is important at this time of year. All the extra cooking, baking, shopping, socializing and travel of the holidays leave us feeling run down. If you’re stressed and tired, it can increase your vulnerability to a drink. Increase exercise to get rid of stress. Sleep and eat properly to keep cravings at bay. If your budget allows, get a massage or a manicure. Take time to take care of YOU.

9. Avoid Holiday Loneliness

Many people feel lonely during the holidays and seek comfort in a bottle. Here’s a better idea. Instead of seeking comfort, offer comfort to someone else. It’s amazing how it lifts your spirits when you “get out of yourself”. Think about volunteering somewhere. Maybe a food pantry that delivers meals to the homebound, or a shelter. Reach out to others who struggle during the holidays. If you’re in a 12-step program, go to an AA meeting. Raise your hand and share your “experience, strength and hope”. When you do something to help others get through the holidays, it actually helps you.

10. Talk to Your Doctor

If you’re new to recovery and worried about your ability to stay away from a drink, you might ask your primary care physician or psychiatrist about some of the new medications that block the desire to drink. Does the Massachusetts rehab facility you’re considering use these craving blockers? Ask them.

If you’re already on the road to sober living, congratulations! It’s certainly well worth the effort. For those who haven’t taken that first step yet, you may want to look into some of the rehab facilities in Massachusetts to see what they offer. At Right Turn, we offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment. We use a highly effective combination of traditional evidence-based treatment and expressive therapies. If we can assist you in any way, don’t hesitate to contact us. Wishing you all a happy, healthy, sober season!

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