Avoiding​ ​Triggers​ ​and​ ​Relapse​ ​During​ ​the​ ​Holidays​ ​for​ ​Sober​ ​Moms

Recovering​ ​from​ ​an​ ​addiction​ ​is​ ​tough​ ​enough,​ ​but​ ​when​ ​you​ ​throw​ ​in​ ​the tremendous​ ​responsibilities​ ​of​ ​motherhood,​ ​resisting​ ​cravings​ ​and​ ​remaining abstinent—much​ ​less​ ​enjoying​ ​the​ ​rewards​ ​of​ ​the​ ​holidays—can​ ​seem​ ​like​ ​an impossible​ ​challenge.

The​ ​holidays​ ​can​ ​bring​ ​up​ ​many​ ​uncomfortable​ ​feelings​ ​of​ ​stress,​ ​loneliness, financial​ ​fear​ ​and​ ​overwhelm​ ​which​ ​can​ ​often​ ​trigger​ ​a​ ​relapse.​ ​For​ ​the​ ​alcoholic​ ​or addicted​ ​mom​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​get​ ​sober​ ​or​ ​stay​ ​sober,​ ​it’s​ ​vital​ ​we​ ​know​ ​what​ ​our​ ​triggers are​ ​and​ ​step-up​ ​our​ ​recovery​ ​plan​ ​to​ ​avoid​ ​a​ ​relapse.​ ​​ ​I​ ​heard​ ​someone​ ​once​ ​say, “we​ ​are​ ​either​ ​working​ ​on​ ​our​ ​recovery​ ​or​ ​working​ ​on​ ​a​ ​relapse.”

Once​ ​we​ ​know​ ​what​ ​our​ ​danger​ ​signs​ ​are,​ ​we​ ​can​ ​watch​ ​out​ ​for​ ​them.​ ​So​ ​when​ ​we identify​ ​the​ ​triggers,​ ​we​ ​can​ ​see​ ​them​ ​as​ ​highway​ ​signs​ ​that​ ​say​ ​Danger​ ​Ahead with​ ​flashing​ ​red​ ​lights.

For​ ​many,​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​most​ ​challenging​ ​places​ ​during​ ​the​ ​holidays​ ​can​ ​be​ ​at​ ​home.​ ​I once​ ​saw​ ​a​ ​bumper​ ​sticker​ ​which​ ​read,​ ​“Good​ ​news:​ ​The​ ​holidays​ ​are​ ​about family.​ ​Bad​ ​news:​ ​It’s​ ​your​ ​own​ ​family.“​ ​​ ​A​ ​bottle​ ​of​ ​wine​ ​used​ ​to​ ​work​ ​to​ ​relax me​ ​and​ ​help​ ​me​ ​escape​ ​from​ ​all​ ​these​ ​feelings,​ ​but​ ​in​ ​sobriety,​ ​I​ ​had​ ​to​ ​find substitutes​ ​for​ ​the​ ​wine.

​ ​Unfortunately,​ ​when​ ​some​ ​hear​ ​the​ ​word​ ​relapse​ ​in​ ​relation​ ​to​ ​drinking​ ​or​ ​using, they​ ​associate​ ​it​ ​with​ ​failure​ ​and​ ​judgment.​ ​People​ ​with​ ​addiction​ ​do​ ​not​ ​get​ ​the same​ ​compassion​ ​as​ ​those​ ​with​ ​other​ ​life-threatening​ ​illnesses​ ​such​ ​as​ ​cancer, diabetes,​ ​and​ ​heart​ ​disease.

When​ ​a​ ​friend​ ​or​ ​family​ ​member​ ​has​ ​another​ ​heart​ ​attack​ ​or​ ​cancer​ ​returns,​ ​the phone​ ​rings​ ​with​ ​sympathetic​ ​calls,​ ​and​ ​casseroles​ ​and​ ​flowers​ ​are​ ​dropped​ ​off​ ​at the​ ​house.​ ​People​ ​ask​ ​what​ ​they​ ​can​ ​do​ ​to​ ​help.​ ​No​ ​one​ ​blames,​ ​shames,​ ​or​ ​judges this​ ​group​ ​of​ ​people.
When​ ​addicts​ ​relapse,​ ​however,​ ​their​ ​disease​ ​is​ ​viewed​ ​in​ ​a​ ​different​ ​light.​ ​The addict​ ​is​ ​often​ ​shamed​ ​or​ ​ostracized,​ ​and​ ​certainly​ ​no​ ​one’s​ ​bringing​ ​casseroles​ ​to the​ ​door.

While​ ​relapse​ ​does​ ​not​ ​have​ ​to​ ​be​ ​part​ ​of​ ​your​ ​journey,​ ​it's​ ​essential​ ​to​ ​realize​ ​that it​ ​is​ ​not​ ​a​ ​moral​ ​failure.​ ​You​ ​can​ ​start​ ​over,​ ​and​ ​you​ ​can​ ​jump-start​ ​a​ ​stronger recovery.​ ​It’s​ ​also​ ​an​ ​excellent​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​learn​ ​what​ ​your​ ​triggers​ ​are​ ​and​ ​how to​ ​keep​ ​them​ ​from​ ​tripping​ ​you​ ​up​ ​again.

Tools​ ​for​ ​Avoiding​ ​Triggers​ ​and​ ​Relapse​ ​During​ ​the​ ​Holidays​ ​for​ ​Sober Moms

1. Before the holidays list your triggers: people, places, and uncomfortable feeling. Then create an action plan for what you will do when confronted with one of these situations.

2. Stay away from slippery people, places, and things.  Nothing and no one is more important than your sobriety.

3. Make a list of activities when you have a craving which you could do immediately. For example, go for a walk, call a sober friend, go to a support group meeting like Women for Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, Refuge Recovery, Life Ring or Smart Recovery.

4. Put on your speed dial the names and numbers of sober friends or supportive people. When you have the craving, call and talk to someone about it immediately.

5. Learn coping skills like relaxation exercises and meditation to manage stress.

6. You have a life-threatening disease. If you do relapse, get help immediately!

7. Go easy on yourself and get enough rest, exercise and sleep.

8. Remember the holidays are just another day of the week.  

An excerpt from my book A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery (Hazelden Publishing, 2015)

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