How to Enjoy the Holidays after Addiction: Guest blog by Alek Sabin

 

Holiday After Addiction 2 (2)

Socialising during your recovery always requires some effort, and life after rehab always takes some serious adjusting, but it can be especially difficult during the holiday season. The holidays are a time when you reunite with family and friends and spend time at seasonal social gatherings. You may encounter friends from your past times of using, people with whom you have impaired relationships, and social situations that tempt you to compromise your sobriety. In short, despite being one of the happiest times of the year, the holidays can also be stressful and dangerous for sobriety.

While the holiday season is a season of joy and giving that ought to be celebrated, it is important to be on your guard in order to protect your newfound sobriety. In case you find yourself or a loved one struggling to navigate recovery from addiction this season, here are some tips for protecting the sobriety you’ve worked so hard for during the holidays…

 

Know Your Triggers

Take an inventory of what your triggers for substance use are. In the past, did you use when you were hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Was substance use an outlet for stress? Do you experience cravings most when you are bored or sad?

Whatever your triggers, be sure to take the necessary steps to keep those triggers at bay. If stress is a trigger for you, for example, practice regular stress relief techniques like meditation, even when you don’t feel particularly stressed. If you are tempted to relapse when you are bored, on the other hand, make it a point to plan out your days with wholesome activities and to have a go-to activity for those times when you truly do have nothing to do.

 

Use Your Support System

It is so crucial to set up a support system within your social circle during recovery, and the holidays are a perfect time to take advantage of that support system. Talk to members of your support system, especially family members and friends with whom you may be attending holiday gatherings. Tell them about what struggles you are facing and what you are worried about this season. This will help them remain mindful of you and allow them to help you at those times this season when you need it most.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Call for Help

Your support system can carry you through the most difficult times of the holiday season. If you are worried about temptations to pick up alcohol during a particular holiday gathering, for example, a friend or family member can refrain from drinking with you or stay by your side throughout the evening to help hold you accountable. If you are worried that spending time with a particular group of people might tempt you to use again, make alternate plans with a friend or family member who understands your recovery.

 

Consider Whether an Event is Worth It

Holiday gatherings can be stressful for a variety of reasons. You have to answer questions about what you have been up to and what’s new in your life. You may encounter people with whom you used to use during times of addiction. You may find yourself around loved ones with whom you are still trying to repair harmed relationships. There are all kinds of reasons to be stress about attending a holiday season event, and for those occasions when you think the stress may be too much, it’s important to recognize when it may be better to miss an event.

 

Make a Plan for Parties

If you do feel that a holiday party will be low-risk enough for you to attend, be sure that you still come with a plan. Bring your own non-alcoholic party drink to sip on if you know alcoholic drinks will be present. Drive yourself so that you can duck out a bit early and have more control over when you leave. Plan out what you will say any time someone offers you a drink at parties. Try to envision which scenarios may arise so that you can be prepared for them.

 

Wear Your Sobriety on Your Sleeve

Finally, make the decision to own your sobriety this season. When someone asks you what is new in your life, go ahead and tell them about your sobriety (only if you feel comfortable doing so, of course.) Talk to them about your journey thus far, in as little or as much detail as you desire. Share what you are looking forward to as you continue your journey. When others see you talk enthusiastically about your recovery, they are sure to respond with similar enthusiasm, offering a shoulder of support and becoming advocates of your recovery.

Dealing with my mental health on holiday abroad: Trip to Israel

recharge
(image: GoThinkBig)

On Monday, I returned from a wonderful holiday to Israel with my fiance Rob, seeing friends and family. I hadn’t been to Israel in 9 years for various reasons and he hadn’t been for 13 years (!) so we were determined to make the most of our trip. We definitely don’t want to leave it so long next time.

We travelled around the country staying with family and in hotels too. If anything, we almost packed in too much trying to see everyone- and I still didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to as we were only there for a week. I was also very conscious of the fact that it was very hot and it became apparent that I couldn’t cope with walking  in 36 degree heat for too long!

I made sure that I had lots of water on me as my medication, Lithium,  dehydrates my body quickly so I have to intake more water than most. I found that through heat and dehydration, I would get tired quite quickly so if we had spent a morning travelling, I would need to spend a few hours either resting in air conditioning or sleeping.

In general, my anxiety is better when I am abroad, though there were a few days where morning anxiety did overwhelm  and I chose to rest and sleep and then go out later in the day. My fiance was very understanding of this and went for a wander some mornings. However, once I was rested and had eaten breakfast/ drunk lots of water, I was able to enjoy and do lots of fun things.

On our trip we went to visit my best friend/ cousin and her family in a place called Tel Mond, near Netanya and we went for a day trip to Netanya- which is a beach side resort. They also made a barbeque for us when we arrived which was lovely and we saw other friends who live there. We met their newest arrival – gorgeous baby girl- and I had lots of cuddles with my new cousin!

We then went to Jerusalem for a few days- to the Western Wall to pray, walking in the Old City, seeing my other cousins and catching up over ice cream and meeting friends for dinner in the evening. We spent time in the Jerusalem First station near our hotel, which has restaurants and stalls as well as live music- a bit like Covent Garden! Rob and I went shopping and bought things for our future home as well as for family in England.

After this, we travelled to spend Jewish sabbath- shabbat with my other cousins who moved to Israel last year- and spent time walking around where they live and meeting their friends. It was restful and lovely to catch up with them, eat delicious food and rest.

Our final day was spent in Tel Aviv, going in the swimming pool,  walking around the streets by the beach, drinking iced coffee and going out for dinner with another cousin who happened to be travelling there with her friends. Rob and I also had time to ourselves which was important and we didn’t want to leave!

I am lucky that my medication very much helps my bipolar and so I was able to do all of the above.

For me when abroad, my main concerns are taking my medication on time and each day, getting enough sleep, eat well, staying out the sun at hot times and making sure I rest and drink enough. If I follow that, I can largely function.

Sometimes my anxiety  about being in a new place can kick in upon waking- so I was thankful my fiance understood it took me a bit longer to adjust to the day, but once I was rested, I was able to really enjoy the holiday.

Its important to note that everyone is different on holiday. However, it is vital to cut yourself slack, take rest days (or rest half days) and also take medication on time. I don’t drink alcohol on my meds- but keeping hydrated if you are is so important too.

Also make sure you declare your condition on travel insurance so you are covered if you become unwell abroad! This will make it more expensive but worth it. You don’t want to get sick abroad and have no cover.

I am pleased too that I stayed well- despite being very tired on my return. I made sure I caught up on sleep and didn’t go straight in to work – although I am now back at work.

I am missing my trip already and so thankful to my fiance, friends and family for making it so special.

Holiday Break Update: Fairy Lights, Writing and Self Care Rest.

christmasatkew.jpg
(image: flickr.com  at Kew Gardens, London)

I have had a really relaxing and at times, busy, break. I always try to pace myself because sometimes when I do too much, I get overly tired or anxious, which has a knock on effect for the rest of the week. Its important that I don’t do too much at once.

Although we don’t celebrate Christmas, my boyfriend and I went to the Christmas at Kew Light installations. They were so beautiful with a tunnel of fairy lights, oversized baubles, stars and snowflakes hanging from trees, coloured fairy light displays on the lake, different coloured trees and singing trees, burning fire and glittery fake trees, coloured pods changing colour to music and the Palm House light show with a Winter theme. The trail was just incredible, I really recommend it! There are also rides, a kids show and little kiosks selling mulled drinks and hot chocolate.

Then, I have been spending the past few days with family and been working a lot on my writing- on my book manuscript and also on another project for a magazine. It can get tiring and I invest a lot emotionally but I am so grateful to be able to write, and hope only positive things come out of it .

I have taken time as well for self care- to read, rest, relax so I don’t get overly anxious or exhausted. Yesterday I watched the Sex and the City Movie. I love Sex and the City, its brilliant. It makes me happy.

Hope you have all had a good break? Let me know what you have been up to. Remember self care is so important. Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year 2018!