Holidays = 4 Letter Word, Part 2

Gather 'round, Benched Sinners, it's that time again....If it were up to me, 'holiday' would be a four letter word. The holiday season is often a time associated with joy, togetherness, and celebration. However, for those in recovery, the festive season can also bring unique challenges that put sobriety to the test. The temptations, triggers, and societal pressures can make it decidedly difficult to maintain one's commitment to living a sober life during this time. In such circumstances, having an exit plan becomes a vital tool to weather through the holidays while safeguarding your sobriety.

The reasons why the holiday season can be particularly challenging for those in recovery are multi-fold. Here are a few factors that contribute to this difficulty. Memories of past holidays intertwined with alcohol or drug use may resurface, triggering nostalgic feelings that can jeopardize your progress. Additionally, society often promotes unrealistic expectations of perfection during this time or normalizes heavy drinking, making it hard to resist the pressure or temptation to indulge. Festive parties, family get-togethers, and workplace functions often revolve around alcohol consumption. The ubiquity of alcohol can make it harder to abstain as it surrounds you from every corner.

Having an exit plan in place before entering situations where substances may be present can be an invaluable tool to navigate the holidays sober. Although it might not be foolproof, it can increase the chances of staying true to your commitment. Here are a few key reasons why having an exit plan is essential. Having an exit plan gives you a sense of control over your environment, allowing you to choose when and how you leave a triggering situation. It empowers you to prioritize your recovery, recognizing that your well-being comes first. By sharing your exit plan with a trusted friend, sponsor, or family member, you are holding yourself accountable. This person can provide support and be an ally in ensuring that your sobriety remains a priority. Having an exit plan acknowledges and respects your boundaries and limitations. It allows you to set yourself up for success by preemptively recognizing warning signs or stressful situations that could undermine your progress. An exit plan can help you identify alternative activities or events where you can participate without compromising your sobriety. By engaging in sober social events, volunteering, or spending quality time with supportive loved ones, you can create new, positive holiday memories.

Consider which events or situations may pose the greatest challenge to your sobriety. Decide beforehand if attending is in your best interest. Communicate your intentions by informing supportive friends and family members about your decision to stay sober. Their understanding and encouragement can provide a valuable safety net. If possible, bring a trusted friend or a supportive sober companion with you to events. Having someone who understands your journey can be immensely helpful. When attending events where substances are present, keep your hands occupied with a non-alcoholic drink or bring a game, book, or puzzle to divert your attention and reduce any feelings of discomfort. A fidget toy, for example, is a great nervous outlet as well as a distraction!

Let's talk about when you just need to jet. Nothing is worth risking your sobriety, knowing when to bail can be a livesaver! Determine your exit strategy in case you feel overwhelmed or triggered. This could involve having a pre-arranged signal with a supportive person, using transportation apps, or having alternative transportation at your disposal. Personally, I like to have a code word that means Remember, you can say no. You do not have to go, you do not have to stay and you do not need to pick up. Pull the trigger on your exit plan at any time- when you run out of steam, when you see someone that stresses you out, when you get hungry and that perfect snack is not there - GO! 

Navigating the holiday season sober may present its challenges, but it's important to remember that your recovery is worth safeguarding. By cultivating an exit plan, you are empowering yourself with strategies to maintain your sobriety while still enjoying the holiday spirit. Surround yourself with supportive individuals, prioritize self-care, and remind yourself of the progress you have made. With planning, determination, and an exit strategy, you can confidently navigate the holiday season, embracing the true joy and meaning of this festive time while staying true to your sober journey.

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