Christmas Survival Guide For Addicts And The Coming End Of 2020

Merry Christmas to all of our DnD brothers and sisters!

For those of you who struggle during Christmas, try to turn this annual event on its head, try to see Christmas as a time to celebrate all of your hard work, determination and effort that you’ve put in throughout 2020.

We could even use our disappointment as an excuse to relapse. Others may also see this as a chance for you to buy your way back into their life rather than simply earning your way back into their life with honesty, hard work, determination, reliable and responsible.

What were the highlights of the year? what things did you struggle with? What can you do differently in 2021 to make sure that they don’t hold you back in the coming year.

Christmas can be a difficult time of the year for some people as they struggle with cravings, the pressure of having family around you, living up to the perceived pressure of buying presents for others when you are having financial problems, cooking a grand meal and entertaining guests, along with many others.

However, others enjoy this time of year, being able to spend Christmas time with family and friends, sharing this annual occasion with love, laughter and happiness.

Planning New Years Eve To Welcome In 2021

The good news is that all of the tips and suggestions within this article are transferable for NYE or any other annual occasion. Including work outings, birthdays, halloween or any other.

We were creative when it came to getting what we wanted when we were in active addiction. It’s important to separate out the natural instinct for negative temptation for material gain, and using the skills and experience that you’ve developed and honed transferable skill to healthily benefit your recovery or attempt at recovery.

Having The Right Attitude & Approach To Christmas

However you experience Christmas, as a pleasure or a burden, having the right mind frame and approach towards Christmas is an integral part of getting through Christmas, while ensuring that you make the most of this time of year, however you feel about Christmas.

Our Tips & Advice

Make sure that you have a game plan for Christmas. How do you want the day to go and what do you want to achieve this Christmas? Having a plan or strategy is key in order to avoid any unexpected occurrences so that you can enjoy the occasion without panicking and trying to cope with unexpected difficulties.

This may be a written plan or just a simple, pre-thought “mental run through” of the event. However you decide to do it, make sure that your plan includes the following:

  1. Where is Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day going to take place? At your house, at someone else’s or a mixture of the two?
  2. Who is going to be there? Do you feel that anyone who will be there could be a possible trigger to use or drink?
  3. What do you need to prepare? Are others also contributing too? What do you need to get or take with you?

10 Top Tips For Those Addicted/Recovering From Alcohol

1. Start Each Day With A Plan To Fend Off Risks Of A Relapse

“An alcoholic needs to wake up each morning thinking about how to stay sober that day,” says Peter R. Martin, MD, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology and director of the Vanderbilt Addiction Center at the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.

Once they have a plan, they should be fine for the rest of that day.” The key is staying focused on your goal of sobriety/abstinence.

Peter R. Martin, MD, A professor Of psychiatry & Pharmacology

2. Evaluate Each Situation

Rank scenarios as low, medium, or high risk for you. Having experience of identifying possible risks is a skill all addicts in recovery must learn to use instinctively

“In early recovery, spend more time in low-risk situations and try to avoid high-risk situations where absolutely possible” says Rhine. If you’re further into recovery and will be in a situation that is medium or high-risk, such as a party with an open bar or being around others who are still actively using drugs or alcohol, rely on your plan.

Arrive early and duck out a bit early. Drive yourself so that you can leave when you’re ready.

This also provides you with a good reason as to why you cannot drink if those around ask you or try to persuade you to drink. Especially if they don’t know about your addictive past.

Drink ‘n’ Drugs

Having a list of excuses or reasons as to why you can’t drink without divulging your past history is a vital skill to have. In a previous article, we looked the various ways you can tell others about your addiction whilst allowing you to keep control of how much information you give away. We also looked at 60 ways to say no when constantly being asked to drink. You can read the article here.

3. Bring The Party With You

Take along food or safe drinks that you enjoy if others don’t know that you have an addiction and don’t want to go into the reasons why you’re not drinking. For instance, if champagne or wine are a big temptation for you at a New Year’s Eve party, bring a flavored, sparkling water or safe alternative to sip as the clock counts down at midnight.

4. Know Your Triggers

Addicts should know their triggers from past experiences for relapse and how to manage them, Dr. Martin says. The most common triggers correspond to the acronym HALT — when you feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Take care of yourself, mentally and physically, to ward off these possible triggers.

5. Don’t Forget To Eat

Low blood sugar can leave you feeling anxious, irritable or lethargic. This, in turn, can make you feel impulsive and tempted by substances. Have a nutritious meal or snack about every three hours .

6. Keep Stress Under Control

Many people turn to alcohol or illegal substances as a way to cope with stress or negative feelings or thoughts. So when stress strikes, take a few minutes to decompress and meditate instead. Push away thoughts of substance use.

Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean you have to act on it. They are simply that, thoughts. You then have a decision to act impulsively as you have previously or respond with positive coping strategies.

Drink ‘n’ Drugs

Make time for regular exercise. “The urge to drink alcohol or use a drug often feels physical, so giving your body something else positive to do can satisfy the craving.

Learning to respond rather than to act impulsively is what led you to developing an addiction in the first place. Using this quick, easy skill can mean the difference between recovering or relapsing. Learn how to do it by clicking here.

7. Distract Yourself

Bring along a buddy who doesn’t drink (where possible due to COVID), smoke or use drugs to help you stay clean and sober at social functions. Find an area far enough away from the bar or temptation and strike up a conversation with someone (following social distancing rules). Offer to help your host so that you stay busy with little tasks to take your mind off of the thoughts that follow.

8. Rehearse Responses

If you’re not ready to share the fact that you’re in recovery with your elderly aunt or a distant cousin at your family holiday dinner, use a discreet strategy for turning down alcoholic drinks or other substances: Create a script that you can use to decline off-limits offers. You can learn how to do this, along with 60 ways to turn down offers of alcoholic drinks by clicking here.

9. Learn to Move Past Your Cravings & Urges

A craving or urge only lasts about 20 minutes, so if you can stay strong for a short period, safe in the knowledge that they will soon pass and go away, the urge should then pass.

Move to a different setting, meditate or breathe deeply. Talk yourself out of acting on your urge by saying something like, “The reality is, I can’t stop at one drink and I can choose to have something non-alcoholic instead.” Remember how much and what is at risk if you give into your craving.

A technique called “urge surfing” can help with this process. It allows you to acknowledge your feelings and thoughts, manage them in a more positive manner without resulting to drugs or alcohol use. Find out how to use it here.

10. Lean on Your Support System

If you’re part of a support group, make time to attend a few extra meetings during these festive occasions to stay on track. If you need help finding a support group, you can find a wide variety of groups, charities and organisations who can help you. You can find their contact information on our help and support page here. Stay close with helpful friends and family and those you’ve met during throughout your recovery journey. Understand that your friends who abuse substances may have to celebrate without you this year as your health and well-being must come first!

Fellowship meetings are still happening online throughout Christmas and new year 24/7, 365 days of the year. You can find contact information for Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Cocaine Anonymous (CA) on our help and support page here.

Vital Points To Think About & Include In Your Plan

  1. Who will I be around? Do they use or drink? Do they know about your addiction and recovery? Do you need to talk to anyone prior to the event who may not know that you have a problem with substances?
  2. Where will you be? Will it be at, or near any possible locations that could be a trigger for you?
  3. What do you plan to do if you experience a trigger, craving or temptation? who can help you if this happens? What can you do to help yourself? What can you do prior to the day to reduce your chances of experiencing any problems and to mitigate any problems before they could possibly occur?

Create & Implement Your Own Personal Emergency “Addiction First Aid Kit”

Create an emergency plan or “first aid kit” for yourself, which will provide help and support if you experience any problems, cravings, urges, temptations, arguments, triggers, negative thoughts or feelings ect.

Things your first aid kit could include could be:

  • Have a walk away plan. This is somewhere where you can go should you feel like you need to get away from others, even if it’s just for 5 minutes?
  • Ask others whether they will be drinking alcohol. How can you manage this of it becomes a temptation?
  • Create a code word if you need help from someone else without letting others know something is wrong if you’re around others who aren’t aware that you have an addiction, or that you’re in recovery. This could be something as simple as using the words “turkey sandwich” or “cold weather”. This lets your partner or someone else when you’re struggling. Even if its just someone to talk to or vent to if it isn’t appropriate for certain guests to know about your addiction.
  • What can do you do take your mind off of drinking or using if it occurs? Have a written list or set reminders on your TV for various programs you would like to watch. You can also do the same with others activities. This could be can books you can read or other activities that you normally like doing. This helps to give you a few little things to look forward to throughout the day.
  • Hopefully by now you should have your MAT medication with you for the Christmas period. Remember to take it at the same time that you normally would as if this were just another normal day.
  • Make sure that you have your phone with you (as everyone pretty much does these days) or a list of contacts you can call or video call if you need someone else with experience of addictions over the festive period to talk to and who can relate to the way you think and feel.
  • If you do attend fellowship meetings normally (AA, NA or CA), remember that there will be online meetings happening throughout the day worldwide 24/7. Make sure that you have a list of meetings and times. Just because it’s Christmas Day doesn’t mean that you should change your normal daily recovery plan if you have one. If you don’t, it’s time to create one ready to pick off 2021 in the manner you wish it to continue going forward.
  • If you’re not seeing family or friends this year because of the COVID-19 lockdown, remember that your recovery or attempt at entering recovery must be your first priority. Christmas can be a balancing act to juggle perceived expectations, arguments and frayed nerves. Don’t let these issues cause you to throw away your hard work for one day out of the other 364 days of the year.

Dealing With Members Of Our Family & Friends Over Christmas

  1. Don’t be surprised at how easily family members can still press our buttons. It doesn’t mean that the “new improved you” is a sham – it’s just that these old habitual responses take longer to eliminate than others.
  2. Some family members may still be struggling to trust us, especially if you don’t see them regularly, so they still think of you as the same person you were when you were actively using or drinking. They may even decide that now is a good time to highlight our faults or bring up negative past incidents. The only way to win back their trust is by showing them the “new you” and staying committed to your new way of life. Arguing with them is unlikely to help. Doing so would only provide evidence to others that you haven’t changed at all. This is the perfect time to use your first aid kit.
  3. It is helpful to have someone neutral to turn to so that we can let off some steam at regular intervals (other people in recovery can be ideal for this).
  4. If we feel ourselves getting triggered, use your first aid kit along with mindfulness techniques and urge surfing to list just two of many. This can prevent anger boiling-over to a point where we say or do something we later regret.
  • Avoid “rising to the bait”. There are people who seem to enjoy winding up and annoying others (e.g. by bringing up hurtful or controversial topics, constantly bringing up past behaviours or incidents), especially once others have consumed alcohol. The best response is not to fall into their trap and use your first aid kit.
  • If others are getting drinking alcohol or getting drunk, it might be best to sit with the kids if their are any. This is probably going to be more fun too! This is where your prior preparation and communicating with others prior to the day can help with this.
  • Arrange to have some breaks from the family so it doesn’t become overwhelming (e.g. go for walks or to a recovery meeting) or simply find a nice relaxing location that you can escape to easily as and when you need to for even just 5 minutes of simple breathing exercises can help.
  • Offer to help prepare the meal, setting things up or even simply offer to clean up afterwards. That will not only win you some brownie points, but it can also provide a bit of a break and a distraction from any possible triggers or sticky moments you may unintentionally encounter.
  • If it all gets too much, make an excuse and leave – even if it is only a temporary break like a walk.
  • It is unreasonable and unfair to expect everyone to not drink alcohol simply because we have and had an addiction to it ourselves. However, most often when our family members know that we have a problem with alcohol, they will be discreet and respectful so that they aren’t “rubbing it in your face” so to speak. It doesn’t mean that others can’t enjoy having a drink so that they can enjoy the day just as much as you. Refer back to our preparation list and first aid kit further up the top of this article.

If you are going to use drugs and/or alcohol this Christmas. Ensure that you do it as safely as possible, with particular attention to minimising the risks associated with using and/or drinking. Check out our article on harm reduction here.

Also, remember to keep your emergency Naloxone kit to hand if you have one and ensure that at least one person knows what you’re doing and how to use the kit, should you overdose and it is needed.

Nasal Administration Version Of Naloxone
Injectable Administration Version Of Naloxone

Tips For Christmas On A Budget & What Really Counts In Your Recovery

You don’t need fancy, expensive Christmas decorations or lavish meals to have an enjoyable and memorable Christmas.

For those of us who are struggling financially, as 99% of addicts do, Christmas is a challenging time – especially if we have children or others who are dependent upon us for their care and wellbeing. There can be a sense of shame, guilt, embarrassment and sadness when we can’t buy our loved ones the presents that we feel they deserve. How can we possibly enjoy the this time of year if even buying the basic and essential ingredients for Christmas dinner is going to be a struggle, never mind also buying presents on top.

However, as corny as it may seem, the best gift we can give our family and friends this Christmas is our attention, and this won’t cost us anything. Most often, our loved ones say that us making a positive effort to change and rebuild our lives is the best present that they could want. It might sound like a platitude, but please consider this: There are plenty of children who are spoiled with gifts, yet still feel lost and miserable because their parents don’t have any time for them. Addiction and self-obsession go together, but now that we are free of drugs and alcohol, we can be present for our loved ones and give them our full attention – the gift that keeps on giving!

Ideas For Enjoying Christmas On A Budget

  • Make your own Christmas gifts (e.g. jumpers, cakes, artwork or even crafting your own homemade bath bombs or even photos in a frame. Tverni list is limited only by your imagination). You could even write a song or poem for someone special
  • Make an agreement and writing with family members to stick to an affordable limit on the amount spent on gifts and the quantity of gifts that you give per person
  • Be honest with your family about your financial situation so that they don’t have unrealistic expectations. They may even help you out if you’re struggling for money
  • Share the cost of food by arranging a communal Christmas dinner where everyone brings food ingredients for starter, main and dessert
  • Make your own Christmas decorations. Simply look on a search engine for thousands of ideas and tutorials to make your own
  • Take part in free, local activities such as carol singing or volunteering for a homeless food kitchen
  • Put the focus on traditional games like monopoly rather than expensive video games and games consoles

Why It’s Best To Avoid Going Overboard At Christmas

Even if we can afford to splash out on Christmas (or we are willing to go into debt to make it extra special), it is still best to avoid going overboard. This is especially true if our reason for investing so much in the festivities is our desire to make up for the past or win back the trust and respect of our loved ones.

The problem is that it is only by our friends and family seeing how much we have changed that they can trust us again. This change needs to be lasting.

We can’t and won’t speed-up the process by offering expensive presents gifts or lavish get-togethers. The risk is that if we do go overboard at Christmas, we could end up feeling under-appreciated, misunderstood or resentful.

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Published by Drink ’n’ Drugs

Providing useful, relevant, up to date information and support for those suffering from active addiction or those who are in recovery.

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