Sunday, December 23, 2007

Surviving the Holidays

For many of us next Tuesday is a big family holiday, so I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone of Rita’s Rule # 3: Avoid anyone who does not make you feel good about yourself.

Christmas can be one of those times where it becomes difficult or maybe impossible to follow that rule. There are a great many “command performances” around holiday time. Our parents, our partners, our children as well as extended family and friends all have expectations that we feel required to fulfill. In addition, we have our own expectations of ourselves. It is a time when we easily fall into the trap of believing we can make someone else happy or that we can somehow control situations. Many of us go to great lengths to buy the right present or to dress and behave as expected, which is usually a set-up for disappointment and failure.

At this time of year it is very important to have a plan of self care and a strategy to avoid the people that don’t make us feel good about ourselves. Whether we are actually going home for the holidays, or just experience it virtually in our hearts and minds, having a plan is critical to our mental sobriety at this “wonderful time of year”. I propose a few suggestions:

-Practice the “ums” and “ahs” - listen without engaging or directly responding when someone is saying something that is triggering you in some way. Just nod and insert an “um” or an “ah” to help you resist the need to comment or defend.

-Set up a telephone contact for emergency calls - make sure you have the phone number of someone who will be available to talk to you if you need some reassurance or support.
- For those of you who participate in a twelve step program of recovery from substance abuse or codependence, look for a local meeting if you are going to be out of town - check with intergroup for a meeting and if necessary arrange for a contact person to meet you there.

-Have an exit strategy in place - If all else fails be prepared to remove yourself from the situation. Talk it over with someone you trust in advance of your trip and make a plan so you can leave if you feel uncomfortable.

Remember that your needs are as important as everyone else’s. By taking responsibility for your well being you'll improve your chances of having a happy and mentally sober holiday.

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