This is a guest post from Jennifer Scott on dealing with substance abuse and the sometimes difficult holiday times. If you are partnered with a narcissist, sociopath or other personality disordered person you may have taken refuge in drink. If you have done so but stopped, don’t relapse just because it’s holiday time. Jennifer has some guiding thoughts to help. Don’t let the narcissist drag you back again – you will feel so good if you don’t. You can do it.
Thank you Jennifer for this invaluable guide.
For anyone who has struggled with substance abuse the holidays pose extra challenges. Recovering addicts are faced with situations that may trigger a relapse, from feeling as though they need to spend time with people who enabled their substance abuse in the first place, to being invited to holiday parties that include alcohol. Additionally, the stress of preparing for the holidays and managing a budget while purchasing presents can drive recovering addicts back to their substances of choice. That’s why it’s important to reduce your stress and lower your chances of relapse during the holidays.
Get a Handle on Your Stress
Managing stress is especially important for recovering addicts. Dealing with stress in healthy ways reduces the risk of relapse and helps to maintain sobriety. Even though the holidays are a stressful time for everyone they don’t have to lead to a relapse if you have some stress management strategies in place.
- Surround yourself with supportive people – Steering clear of the people who enabled your substance abuse is key to a sober holiday season. Spend time with a support network of friends and family members who support your recovery, make arrangements to attend group sessions or meetings and decline invitations to events that include people who pose a risk to your sobriety — including narcissists who might tempt you to just “loosen up” or “splurge” for the holidays. If you do end up encountering anyone who arrogantly tries to dismiss your sobriety as trivial, trade their company for that of someone supportive. Don’t spend too much time alone however because that can increase your chances of a relapse.
- Get plenty of rest and eat well – Taking care of yourself during the holidays is an important piece of the stress management puzzle. If you get enough sleep and eat the proper food you will help your body and mind cope with stress better.
- Get active – Exercise is one of the best things you can do to manage stress. Whether it’s taking a walk with a friend, hitting the gym with a partner, or taking a yoga class, you should get active to release endorphins, level your head, and stay busy in healthy ways during the holidays to manage stress.
Plan ahead for holiday gatherings
If you are hosting a holiday party or housing family for Christmas morning, planning ahead will help you manage stress because you will be prepared and not rush around to cook, clean, and decorate at the last minute. Plan to make easy dishes or ask guests to provide sides while you provide the main entrée and dessert. Make nonalcoholic drinks that taste just as good as cocktails and other holiday drinks.
Manage your time and make lists to prioritize tasks to keep feelings of being overwhelmed at bay. Start cleaning a week ahead of time and know your menu for food and mocktails in advance as well, The more prepared you are the less stressed you will be and less likely to relapse.
We all have stress and anxiety when dealing with relatives especially our narcissistic ones: those who steal the limelight, gaslight, put down our contributions to the table or our gifts, bully or boast. You know who they are. Prepare for them mentally and emotionally – you can do it!
Get a seasonal or part-time job
Throwing a new job into the holiday mix may seem like the absolute last thing you want to do but bear with me. If financial stress is getting you down a side job can be a great way to make extra cash to ease the burden that gift buying can create. There are also a lot of sharing economy jobs available right now such as pet sitting or dog walking, that allow you to make money while spending time with dogs, which is perfect because animals can actually improve our mood and our physical health. Finally, having to work is a great excuse for avoiding holiday events or egotistical people that you fear could trigger anxiety for you this holiday season.
Make a gift budget
You don’t need to spend a ton of cash to get a ton of smiles when people open their gifts this holiday season. The first thing you should do to avoid some stress is to make a gift budget. Be honest with yourself about your budget and keep a list or make a spreadsheet to help you stay on track. Remember to track your spending throughout the season to make sure you stay on track.
Consider giving handmade gifts that incorporate your hobbies and your loved ones’ favorite things. Perhaps you play guitar and your mother loves your music; record yourself playing and give it to her Christmas morning. Homemade food is also welcome.
It definitely is possible to maintain your sobriety if you actively manage your stress levels, plan ahead, and make a gift budget this holiday season. And remember to control your narcissistic relatives! Don’t let them harm you again. You are in control of you. Happy Holidays.