Protect Your Sobriety This Christmas
If this is going to be your first Christmas in addiction recovery, you may have concerns about how you are going to manage. This is a time of year when there can be a lot of pressure on people to drink alcohol. It can also incredibly stressful to be spending more time with family or dealing with the loneliness of being estranged from your family – these are all powerful triggers to relapse. Here are 5 tools you can use to protect your sobriety this Christmas.
1. Urge Surfing
One of the potential threats to your sobriety over the Christmas period is going to be cravings. Drug and alcohol addiction creates links within your brain between certain stimuli (relapse triggers) and the desire to drink or use drugs. Urge surfing is a technique devised by Alan Marlatt, and it involves just observing cravings until they pass (it is a type of mindfulness practice). A craving will only last for at most 30 minutes unless you obsess about it or try to resist it. You can develop your ability to urge surf by practising it on other behaviours – for example, you can just observe an itch without scratching it or delay giving in to the craving if you smoke cigarettes.
2. The S.O.B.E.R. Technique
Another common reason for why people relapse over the holiday period is they become stressed by a situation (e.g. a family argument), and they act on impulse. The S.O.B.E.R. technique is a tool used as part of the Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) programme.
• Stop – don’t act on impulse
• Observe – what is happening in your body and mind – are you tense, agitated, or irate?
• Breathe – this will slow down your thoughts, and move your body out of the ‘fight or flight’ response
• Expand – now that your thoughts slowed down, and your body is more relaxed, you can better see the bigger picture
• Respond – in a calm and rational way
3. H-A-L-T Awareness
At Christmas time there are likely to be plenty of relapse triggers in your environment. It is unlikely you can get rid of them all, but you can be prepared for the most common. These can easily be remembered using the acronym HALT which stands for hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness. You can take steps to avoid these triggers over the holiday period.
4. The Magic of Service
If you belong to a fellowship group like AA, you are going to have plenty of opportunities for service. This type of work strengthens your sobriety, and it will mean you will be focusing more on other people rather than your own concerns.
5. Meetings, Meetings and More Meetings!
It can tough to deal with addiction disorders without support, and it becomes an even greater challenge at certain times of the year like Christmas. If you don’t normally go to fellowship meetings, you might want to try a couple over the holiday season. If you do go to meetings, you might want to add a few extra so you can benefit from some additional support.
I think it was ‘Clancy’ who said:
“I probably only need 3 meetings a week but as I don’t know which 3 so I go to 5 meetings a week!”.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process