You know you have arrived at adulthood when the holidays seem to come around faster than ever. Replaced with the anticipation of the holidays from childhood is stress- from meal planning, to shopping, to finding room in the budget for those perfect gifts, to travel. Now you know why the holidays were so much fun as a kid; the adults did all the hard work to make them happen!
If you are concerned about indulging in more than just Halloween candies or Christmas cookies this year, there is an added layer of stress around the holidays. Sometimes our friends and family may make matters more difficult unfortunately. Regardless, there are ways to cope while appropriately enjoying the most special days of the year without waking up to regret. These tips are written using examples of both alcohol and substance abuse, so keep in mind that each tip may not apply to your situation.
Don’t allow yourself to make exceptions.
Go into each event with a plan in mind. If the event is one you have attended before, how has this event played out in the past? Visualize various scenarios. What can you do to help it go differently? Don’t beat yourself up over your past, but be reflective on what has happened in this situation or similar ones. Think about what led you down that path in each scenario so you can avoid it happening again.
Know your limits going into events as well. Does any alcohol at all mean getting on a path of no return for you? Whether it is no drinks, one drink or two, do not talk yourself into anything different in the moment than what you have decided is the limit beforehand.
Stay out of the “action” as much as you can.
Is all the heavy drinking taking place in one corner of the party? Avoid that area by all means! If you know you’ll be tempted into searching the cabinets for pills, use the restroom before you go in hopes of not needing to find yourself in that area at all.
Also, refuse to fall into old patterns simply because it is the way things have always been done. If you know others will be abusing substances at the event, not attending is of course your best option. If you’re concerned about hurting a friend or family member’s feelings by not showing up, let them know ahead of time that you can’t make it. Make plans to get together another day in a location you feel is safer.
Make new traditions.
Changing the venue may help you from falling into old habits. Consider hosting the family Christmas party yourself. You may consider moving the event to a public place where you feel less likely to lose control. If you’re comfortable discussing your struggles with your friends and family, let everyone know you’ll be doing things differently this year to avoid the temptation. If they are not supportive, tough! They can get over it beforehand or not show up. Do you really need to be surrounded by people who are not supportive of your decision?
If you are hosting and plan on serving alcohol, buy a very limited amount. An even better idea is to ask someone else to purchase it and bring it as they arrive at the party. You can also ask friends and family members to bring just what they plan to consume themselves. You may wish to limit drinks to a cocktail hour before dinner so there is not enough time to find yourself in a situation you regret.
After the gathering, send extra alcohol home with friends and family.
Talk to a trusted friend or family member before the event.
Talk through your strategies with someone you love and trust that knows your situation and is not afraid to tell you what they think you can handle. It can be very helpful to make sure this person knows all the details of your plan and will hold you accountable if you can bring them along. Consider having a word or phrase to provide different signals to each other. Take their opinion seriously and don’t argue or justify your decisions if he or she says it is time to go.
It may be even more beneficial if you have this type of relationship with the host. Can the host cut everyone off and remove temptation altogether? If you don’t want anyone to notice you are not participating in the festivities by drinking, can the host give you a non-alcoholic drink without others knowing? Keeping your cup full of a favorite non-alcoholic drink may also help keep you from reaching for something more.
Cope with other activities.
Staying occupied with other activities can be helpful. Involve yourself in a game or watch a movie. Ask someone to take a walk with you or play outside with the kids. Keep a topic in mind to bring up in case conversations lead in a direction you would rather not go. If you have a child, keep his or her picture with you. Friends and family love seeing new photos and every time you pull it out, you will think about how important sticking to your plan is.
Everyone has different reasons why they struggle. Sometimes getting through each event is a reason to celebrate by enjoying a favorite activity, food or a trip to the movie theater or spa. If you need to talk about your individual situation or feel like you’ve blown it over the holidays, we understand and want to help get you back on track. Don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Our material is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for counseling with a qualified professional.