The holidays are a time of a high rate of relapse for addicts of all persuasions. We don’t do well with stress at any time of year. As self-medicators, when we feel bad, we eat too much and we eat the wrong things to try to make ourselves feel better. Ratchet up the stress like the holidays tend to do, and we’ll ratchet up our self-medicating consumption.
But there are ways to support ourselves and stick to our commitment to stay off demon foods and out of overeating in the days ahead. Here are some suggestions.
We can be realistic in our emotional expectations. Many of us addicts have problematic families. We can fall into the trap of thinking that this year will be different. That somehow magical healing will have occurred and everyone will get along and be on their best behavior. While that may happen, it may not. If we assume things will be as before, we won’t be disappointed. And if things are better, hurray!
If things get difficult, we can leave. An addict committed to her recovery always has a prearranged escape plan.
- Drive your own car to the function or family event.
- Visiting family out of town? Get a rental car so you can get out of the house. It may be some of the best money you ever spend.
- Go for a long walk.
- Go to a 12-Step meeting. Everyone is welcome there and if you call the Central Office of AA or OA in any town, almost always someone will come and give you a ride to a meeting. (Not an alcoholic? AA is still a safe place to go. If you’re abstinent from sugar, chances are good you’re abstinent from alcohol too.)
- Go to your room or the bathroom and call a recovering friend.
We can limit our exposure to relapse opportunities.
- Choose wisely when accepting invitations to holiday functions; if eating is the main activity, don’t go. Choose activities like caroling or feeding the homeless or a religious service instead.
- Ask workmates to keep holiday demon foods in the break room and then stay out of the break room.
- Give your own party where board games and charades are the focus.
- Stay on the other side of the room from the buffet table.
We can focus on gratitude for our abstinence. It helps me to remember that sugar and flour foods are a short-term solution to a long-term problem. While eating them may give me a few moments of relief, it won’t get me what I really want: freedom from obsession and peace of mind with food. Instead, I’ll get shame, guilt, and self-loathing. And who wants that for Christmas?
What are some of your best ways to deal with holiday stress?
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