Seasonal holidays have built-in stressors no matter how mentally healthy we are.

Financial and family strains are the usual culprits that rob one of being of good cheer during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The alcoholic/addict and people challenged with eating disorders have an even greater grinch at play for staying sober, preventing relapse and avoiding holiday depression. Commit the following tips to memory or note them in your mobile device as your SOBER EMERGENCY CARD. They will help you stay on your recovery path. Plan ahead, treating your disease with gratitude as your most precious gift. You can do this!

Practice Self-Care—make your bed, meditate, exercise, and allow yourself plenty of sleep. Restoring your body builds up your emotional and spiritual immune system. Pay attention to good physical and oral hygiene. All of these simple practices will give you a heightened sense of self-esteem.

Exercise your right to set boundaries—whether your family or friends choose to follow them is not your concern. The boundaries are for your protection! You don’t have to tread on slippery slopes of answering questions that make you uncomfortable. What you eat is none of their business. Prepare responses to the inevitable probing questions in advance, and don’t engage in conversations that you already know are headed for conflict.

Have a safe spot—Designate a place where you can be alone as soon as you arrive. This is your safe, invisible border where you can regroup and think before you respond. Even in the most crowded situations, there is always a retreat, even if it’s your car. Don’t take your keys with you though, just in case the urge to go buy a bottle or score drugs becomes too intense. Be mindful that a craving for alcohol, drugs, sugar typically only lasts 20 minutes.

Phone a sober buddy or therapist—-Have numbers easily accessible to speed dial a sober friend. You never know…your call may come at just the right time to help your pal out of a jam. Ask your therapist, sober coach, or sponsor for their availability in advance of your trip, and ring them for support while you are away. There are sober hotlines and other 24/7 help resources accessible to you by phone and on the internet.

Be of service—- whether it’s chopping vegetables and pecans while the rest of the family gets sloshed, or excusing yourself after dinner to feed leftovers to the homeless, or attending 12-step groups or church. There’s nothing better to get out of yourself, and put aside your fears and angst than being of service. Get creative. Find a way to help another human being. It will help you.

Remember it’s not about you!—Avoid wearing your heart on your sleeve. You are changing and growing, but that doesn’t mean everyone else around you has to step on tippy-toes. Let them be themselves, and realize your recovery might be threatening to them, especially if they are behaving in dysfunctional ways. It’s not your place to judge or fix them. You are not culpable for anything they do or say, but you are responsible for how you respond.

Sometimes recovery is not just a day at a time, but an hour at a time. Stay vigilant and treat your disease with the respect it deserves, because it never takes time off for a holiday.

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