Making a Strong Recovery Plan for the Christmas Holidays

Making a Strong Recovery Plan for the Christmas Holidays

Tis the season to feel strong and confident about your recovery and making a good clear recovery plan for the holiday season. Planning and being prepared is key to being able to enjoy the holidays without slips, relapses and potentially triggering situations.

The Christmas season is right up there on top of the most challenging times in the year for many people in recovery from all types of addictions and behaviours. The first Christmas and New Years in recovery is a milestone event to get through and may feel overwhelming without good preparation. Apprehension, anxiety, fear of relapse and a host of thoughts and feelings may be flooding your mind in the lead up to the holidays.

A strong recovery plan will mean that you sit down and actively plan out each day for the two-week period over Christmas.

Fear based thoughts are common at times like this, particularly for those who do not feel secure and grounded in their sobriety. It is a good time to reach out for the support of others in long term recovery. If you are not currently attending group support meetings then now is the time to make first contact and find out about face to face and online meetings.

Shift your mindset from fear-based thoughts to proactive plans for the holiday season. Take control of all upcoming situations and events by planning ahead and establishing your own clear boundaries around people, places and things.

Trust your gut when it comes to attending family gathering and socialising. Air gently on the side of caution by doing what is best for you and where you are on your recovery journey right now. This may mean practicing polite refusal skills and letting people know well in advance of your availability and plans. Make your health, wellbeing and recovery a priority this Christmas.

The right support – at the right time – from the right people may need to be well planned  during the festive holiday.

Making a strong recovery plan will mean sitting down and actively planning out each day for the two-week period over Christmas. While this may seem over-the-top, the purpose of the plan is that each day is semi-structured with your support activities and network in place for each day.

If you are not already using a page-a-day diary then right now is the time to start practicing this mindful recovery habit. Treat yourself to a new diary so that you can start the New Year off on a positive note feeling in-control. If you are not using a diary to plan your recovery, consider using the Smart Recovery 7 day planner worksheet here to get through the holidays.

Using a page-a-day diary will help you develop the habit of planning and structuring your recovery. Choose the same day at the start of the week to plan the week ahead. Over time it will become second nature. Forward planning means writing into your diary daily supports, meetings, events, activities and appointments that will reinforce and promote your recovery goals every day.

Plan your group support meetings in advance. This means finding out exactly what times and dates self-help support meetings are being held and writing them into your plan. Many people double up on daily meetings over more challenging times for extra support if they are feeling particularly vulnerable. (You can find a list of recovery support meetings in Ireland on this page.)

The right support – at the right time – from the right people may need to be well planned during the festive holiday. Your peers and friends in recovery will also be planning extra supports and contact so don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Many support groups have private active WhatsApp groups for staying connected each day.

When you have finalised your simple recovery plan, share it with others such as your therapist, sponsor, recovery peers and important people in your life who are supporting your recovery process for moral support and reassurance. It’s important to involve partners in your recovery plans for the holidays and helps build trust.

Those in recovery from alcohol and substances may find it easier to limit social contacts and social events which may compromise sobriety. While those in recovery from hidden addictions such as pornography and gambling may find it more beneficial to be physically around close family and friends to limit availability, opportunity and accessibility.

Simple recovery habits which you can plan into each day will keep you focused and motivated to achieve recovery goals. These are activities such as journaling, workbooks, reading, listening to podcasts, worksheets, using recovery apps, listening to audiobooks and any of the supports that have worked for you so far. Keep your recovery activities content specific in the first six to twelve months of recovery. Include the habits and rituals that work for you into your weekly planner for consistency and routine. It is better to choose three or four habits and activities you can do well consistently, rather than lots of things inconsistently.

Journaling each day will allow you space to acknowledge and process thoughts and feelings in the present.

Supporting others in recovery is a strong motivator and provides a sense of purpose greater than yourself. This may mean that while you are planning your own support network, you choose to also offer support to others in recovery – just like you.

Write a list detailing the challenges you are envisaging over the holiday season to help you prepare. Or write a list focusing on the benefits of being in recovery and the positive things that will come from your sobriety and healthy well-being. Your recovery positively impacts on every single person in your life. List making is a helpful mindful recovery exercise.

Each morning, consider writing a gratitude list outlining what you are grateful for in your life right now.

Write out two or three mantras or affirmations you can say in your mind when you find yourself in stressful or overwhelming situations.

Track your sobriety achievements every single day.

Incorporate a simple daily routine of physical exercise to help reduce stress and tension. This will improve sleep quality and is a good way to managing urges and triggers. Plan solo exercise such as running or walking and also exercising with others to keep you motivated.

Remember to lean into your whole support network – you are not alone.

Take time out for quiet down time and resting. It is helpful to schedule calls to close friends before and after what may feel like challenging times and circumstances for extra support.

Let go of worries about what other people may think about you not attending social events or being sober if you are in recovery from alcohol and substances. Instead turn your attention inwards and focus on the benefits and positive impact sobriety has on your life and the future. We have little control over what other people may or may not think about us.

Be consistent and focus on staying balanced and grounded. Take things one day at a time – but also plan ahead. Remember to lean into your whole support network – you are not alone.

Find joy, fun and meaning in your own way throughout the Christmas holidays. Wake up each day feeling strong in your recovery and ask yourself – what have I planned for my recovery today?

What matters most is looking after yourself in every single way, achieving recovery goals and surround yourself with the people who love, support and encourage you most this festive season.

Orlagh Gahan is a an IACP accredited Psychotherapist, Sex and Relationship Therapist, Addiction Counsellor & Specialist Fertility Counsellor in private practice in Co. Kildare, Ireland and worldwide online. She specialises in sexual wellbeing, psychosexual problems, sexual recovery, couples & relationship therapy and addiction recovery. Orlagh works with individuals and couples online using DOXY.ME, a secure telemedicine platform. Find out more or book a consultation online at www.orlaghgahan.ie.

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