Continuing our discussion with author and recovery expert Lee McCormick, who offers some special advice and guidance for those looking to stay clean and sober during the holiday months. Click here to read our previous entry in this series Holiday Seasons Best of Times, Worst of Times for Recovering Addict pt 2.
Voices of Recovery- When we think of the holiday season, the first thing that comes to mind is family and friends. For the recovering addict in particular, and in line with the gratitude list we spoke of earlier, how pivotal of role do friends and family play in staying focused over the holidays?
Lee McCormick- Leaning on friends, mentors, and sponsors is almost a must have during the holiday season. Its an oldie but a goodie but it is always a good idea to make an agreement those 2 or 3 close people who know you and know your story, make an agreement that if you are in a jam you can call those people up, and know no matter what time it is, or how busy there are, that if you are in a pinch or in a crisis-those people will have your back. Make that agreement, reach out and make the agreement to stay in touch and hang out. Use that support structure. Hold each other accountable, that support structure can be crucial.
And lest we for get the power of meetings as well, just because many have days off work or an extended vacation, does not mean that drug and alcohol support meetings have stopped. For many, going to meetings and leading meetings takes on a new angle as we give thanks and count or blessings. Some of the most effective and powerful meeting I ever took part in were the ones that came late in the year.
Voices of Recovery- For those who use the structure of 9 to 5 work, or are used to their routine to maintain sobriety…does the extra time in itself create the potential for relapse for recovery and the holidays?
Lee McCormick- It all goes back to staying in the moment and I can’t stress enough. Be mindful of where your attention is going. Is it wavering and going back an old story? Staying in the moment is critical and we have to be realistic. You are not going to be able to sort out deep rooted problems while sitting down to Christmas dinner, it simply will not happen. By staying in that moment we can keep our focus where it needs to be, and enjoy what we should be enjoying instead of trying to hash out our problems. Do not make anything right, or anything wrong, just chill out on your attention and do not overthink the situation as much as you should simply embrace the situation.
Voices of Recovery- What are some of your own tools that you personally use to keep your attention and stay in the moment as you say?
Lee McCormick- One thing I do that I think is cool for the holidays, is to make a holiday song mix. Take some of your favorite Christmas or Holiday songs and put them on your smart phone. Even just making a best of mix of songs from the past year that you enjoy, that have a positive message, that make you feel good. Its a chance to get creative, and helps to do something constructive with your extra time. Music can play a huge difference in how we feel, by choosing and listening to those songs that inspire us and make us feel better is a very easy tool I suggest for everybody…even those not in recovery can benefit.
Another thing we can do is always think ahead, literally. Think through where we are going, what are we doing, why are we going there, whats the point. The truth is we dont own anybody anything but the truth and honesy with ourselves. With family pressure of needing to do this and that, it can turn into a direct reflection of the same triggers that may have sent us into a negative, addictive pattern in the first place. Just because you may be sober, does not mean the same irritations are absolved. We may be more tolerant of those things…but truthfully, they may and most like still be present. Realize that you do not have any obligation to anyone other than yourself. Taking responsibility for yourself means that maybe you take those situations that make you uncomfortable and lessen and diminish the time spent in those situations. If you have to go into a situation that may not be healthy, try spending a half hour as opposed to the whole day, minimize the risk and minimize the emotional clout of those situations because once again, you own nothing to anyone but yourself.