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.
Rosemary O'Connor is the Hazelden Outreach Manager in Northern California.
She is the author of A Sober Mom's Guide to Recovery (Hazelden 2015) and the founder of https://www.sobermomsguide.com
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