Recovery 3 minutes to read

The holiday season gives us many gifts. Deep-fried turkey, peppermint white mochas, and lazy snow days are some of my personal favorites. However, what can often be missed in this season of giving and joy is the challenge the holidays present to our sobriety. Extra time off work, vacations out of town, or visits from the in-laws are just a few of the many changes we experience during this time.

These changes might easily disrupt the rhythms that reinforce our health and recovery. Walking in sustained freedom always includes behaviors that support us, such as regular group meetings, engaging in homework, and making our weekly phone calls. During the holidays, these routines can quickly fall by the wayside. Groups take a week (or two) off when the meeting day lands on a holiday. Phone calls are harder to make from different service areas. With no looming group meetings to prepare for, homework slips off our radar.

Dr. Ted Roberts calls the holidays “the season of relapse,” as many men and women fall prey to the subtle deception of this time. Though it is a time of family, fun, and relaxation, it can be the slippery slope into letting down our guard and returning to old, familiar patterns.

So, how can we avoid such perils? What steps could we take to make sure our holiday season isn’t tainted by guilt, remorse, or shame? Here are three habits to overcome the danger of relapse during this holiday season.

1. Remember Healing Is Holistic

Too many people head into this change of pace believing that their personal guardrails will be enough to keep them from relapse. But just like staying safe on the highway involves more than metal barriers, so does staying healthy during the holiday season. If we have only our guardrails, but overindulge in food and drink, have unhealthy, irregular amounts of sleep, and waste too many hours watching TV, we are putting ourselves into a dangerous space mentally and emotionally. I love College Football Bowl season and the NFL as much as anyone, but I have learned that good diet, exercise, and sleep, among other things, is crucial to staying healthy. So, indulge appropriately, but look for ways to keep a healthy balance.

2. Be Intentional In Maintaining Community

Maybe during a normal week, you always call Joe at 7:00 pm on Thursday; but now, that time falls right in the middle of a family event. Plan ahead and make time to connect with your group and others who keep you honest and accountable. Just because your group takes a week off from meeting doesn’t mean you should take a week off from phone calls and making a new commitment to change. These practices keep us focused on our change process. So, will you need to get up a little early at the in-laws to do a check-in? Maybe slip out of the house on an errand so you can reach out to a friend? Be creative, and intentional, when maintaining regular contact with your group. Not only will this keep you strong, but it will encourage others in your group to do the same.

3. Honest Assessment Of Your Vulnerabilities

Look ahead at the next several weeks on your calendar. Go ahead, do it! Highlight those days or times where you know ahead of time you will be facing some unique challenges. Write out what those challenges are and how you will prevail. Does being home or around your family of origin trigger unhealthy emotions? Make a plan for how you can respond well instead of running or numbing.

Will you travel somewhere and potentially have “unsupervised” Internet access? Invite a group member into that battle and keep them posted on your progress. Everyone faces different challenges because of their past and their unique triggers. Identify your danger zones, communicate a plan of action, and you can avoid these land mines. Communicating the plan is just as important as creating the plan. A plan kept to yourself is too easy to change, forget, or ignore. A plan communicated with others will be reinforced by the power of community.

I pray that you have a wonderful, joy-filled, holiday season. The enemy of your soul comes to steal joy, kill relationships, and destroy your future. Don’t let him! Our Savior has come; and in Him is life. May your holiday celebrations be filled with His presence.

Joy to the world!

Nick Stumbo

Nick is the Executive Director for Pure Desire. He has been in ministry leadership for 18 years. He was in pastoral ministry at East Hills Alliance Church in Kelso, Washington, for 14 years. Nick has a Bachelor in Pastoral Studies from Crown College, an MDiv from Bethel Seminary, and is a certified Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). He has authored two books, Setting Us Free and Safe: Creating a Culture of Grace in a Climate of Shame.

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