If you’re anything like me, the last few days have probably been a roller-coaster of thoughts and emotions. The new wave of sudden and dramatic rolling Covid related developments that started on Saturday 19th December carried with it a very un-festive smorgasbord of anxiety, indecision, fear and upsetting last minute changes of plans much like the rest of the country.
For me, as an individual in recovery from addiction, being in this state of mind rings warning bells. A wise man once told me to get into good habits while things were OK, so I’d know what to do when they got tricky. So, I have been training hard for quite a long time for these kinds of situations, and I have the tools and instincts to manage – but only for a day at a time. If I believe I’m going to be OK without taking any action for longer than a day or two, I’m kidding myself. The minute I start to think I’m going to be fine, I’m in trouble. Addiction is a relentless condition that can strike at any time. Constant vigilance is required. In my experience of recovery, I need to make a new commitment every day.
Whatever your circumstances this Christmas, how you are feeling, and no matter how shaky your recovery might seem as a result, it is possible for you to hold on to it.
Christmas is just another day, and recovery is a day at a time. It’s just another set of hours during which your main objective is not to pick up a drink, drug, or engage in addictive behaviours. You’ve got this!
Here are 12 suggestions for looking after your recovery over the holidays that you might find helpful:
1. Try and stay as connected as possible. Connection with others is one of the backbones recovery. There are literally thousands of online video 12 step meetings across the UK and across the world. Do some virtual tourism. Remember to connect with the meetings, open your mouth, introduce yourself. Put some meetings in your diary and stick to them.
2. Try and have some 1:1 conversations with as many people as possible – if you can, use video to give you that increased feeling of connection.
3. Always keeping Covid safe and following government guidance, change the way you feel physically – with some exercise. Go for a walk, run or bike ride. If you can’t get out, try some YouTube reruns of Joe Wicks’ exercise classes, or some online yoga.
4. Acts of kindness can really change the way you feel for the better. Do some service for others, whatever that looks like – as long as it’s within Covid restrictions. For example, call someone in recovery who you know is struggling, an elderly neighbour just for a chat, or to see if they need anything. Think of ways you could help others to take your mind of yourself.
5. Try and remind yourself what you have in your life to be grateful for, focussing on things that aren’t possessions. Make a list. You might be surprised by how long it is. Then call someone and tell them about the list. Especially if they’re on it.
6. If you feel tempted, “play the film through to the end credits.” Think about what will happen if you do have that drink or drug or make that bet. What will happen after 5 minutes, an hour, a day, a week? Where would you be in a month? What would you lose? How would you feel. Be realistic. Use real examples of what has happened to you in the past. Think about your “yets” – eg, what hasn’t happened – yet?
7. Read AA/NA literature. If that’s not for you, listen to recovery podcasts. There are thousands of them. I particularly recommend “Hooked: The Unexpected Addicts” – they are truthful, funny, moving and very real. Podcasts are an amazing way to feel connected.
8. Remember that a thought is just a thought. You don’t need to act on it. You can acknowledge it, then let it go. Having a thought about drinking or using doesn’t make you “bad,” or “weak” – in fact if you are someone who suffers from addiction, it’s perfectly natural. But it’s just a thought.
9. Take some time out from the noise in your head with meditation. There are many great meditation apps like Calm and Headspace, as well as free guided meditations on YouTube and social media.
10. If you’re feeling lonely – tell someone! Be heard. It might sound silly, but I’ve even used radio phone-in’s before, when I’ve felt there was no-one else to speak to. There will be millions of people across the country feeling what you’re feeling. You are not alone.
11. Not everyone will be planning the traditional Christmas dinner – so if that’s you please remember to eat regularly and drink lots of water.
12. Try and make a plan – have a schedule and stick to it. Even if your schedule just includes an online meeting, phone calls, exercise, meals and bed, it’s a fantastic schedule. Tomorrow’s another day.
Together, these 12 points can start to build your insurance policy - but it expires every night when you go to sleep, and you’ll need to renew it at the beginning of the next day. Keep renewing the policy every morning by making a commitment to your recovery for that day.
Give yourself a break, take it easy. You didn’t get into recovery to give yourself a hard time. Remember that a day without a drink or a drug is a great day, and a roaring success.
Things are going to get better. But until then have a very happy Christmas and look after yourselves.
If you need more help with your recovery or you are in active addiction, you are not alone, read our advice pages developed with Clouds House Clinicians to support you. And if you are experiencing severe symptoms these can be life threatening, call 999 or 111 and seek urgent medical care.
If you believe you need treatment now, Clouds House remains open during the holiday season.