Christmas in recovery: How to survive the minefield

Christmas festivities, whilst fun for many, can leave the person in recovery from addiction feeling quite lonely and isolated. Few events cater for the sober person.

Facing Christmas for those in recovery from an addiction

Dr Andrew Parker, addiction services lead consultant at Nightingale Hospital shares these tips for those ‘surviving the minefield’.

  • Plan ahead and decide how you want your Christmas and New Year to be.
  • Don’t follow the crowd or feel pressured to attend things that won’t give you peace or which may endanger your sobriety.
  • Arrange one or two things with the people you most want to be with over the Christmas period.
  • If family dynamics are difficult, manage those occasions wisely and in short bursts. Quality over quantity.
  • Focus on simple sharing, true friendship, rather than too much indulgence.
  • Christmas and New Year can be a time of spiritual renewal or a new beginning, so cultivate the serenity to make it so for you.
  • If you are really on your own, think about helping out for a few hours at a homeless shelter. In giving, we receive, and unexpected joy may appear.
  • Don’t be afraid of some solitude. Trust it, and steer clear of any tendency to self-pity or regret.
  • Your sobriety may be very valuable to others who prefer someone focused and clear-headed to converse with. Value your new clarity.
  • Look out for all the little opportunities to share a generous spirit.
  • Cultivate serenity in all things, and joy will breakthrough.

Resources for those struggling this Christmas

What is addiction?

Addiction is a complex condition, characterised by an uncontrollable urge to use a particular substance (drugs or alcohol), or engage in a behaviour (gambling, technology, sex and love), despite many harmful consequences. 

When someone develops an addiction to a substance or a behaviour, use will overstimulate the reward pathways in the brain resulting in pleasure. Use of the substance and behaviour can be then used as a coping mechanism to avoid unpleasant feelings, thoughts or emotions.  Over time, the brain function of self-regulation is diminished and control becomes almost impossible, resulting in an addiction.

An addiction can rapidly impact an individual’s mental and physical health, relationships, finances and cause social and legal problems. 

Learn more about addiction treatment at Nightingale Hospital.

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“When you have a problem and you drink, take drugs or gamble, the problem won’t go away. Stay and tackle the problem”