Holiday Season Strategies: Avoiding Relapse, Inviting Happiness

by Nirmala Raniga, Founder & Director

The holiday season can be an especially challenging time for individuals in recovery from addictive behaviors. Holiday parties and celebrations with co-workers, friends and family means increased exposure to behavioral excesses of all kinds, and a general attitude which encourages indulgence. Daily routines are often disrupted by busier schedules, travel, visiting relatives, or the shifting schedules of those we rely on in our support networks. Emotions and expectations run high as we desire a feeling of belonging and connection with others, or experience feelings such as loneliness, depression, or a desire to protect ourselves by withdrawing from others. All of these situations can trigger our desire to return to unhealthy patterns of behavior that we formerly used as a reward or coping strategy for stress or confronting emotions.
In his best-selling book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Dr. Deepak Chopra discusses seven universal principles that can be followed to promote good health, emotional and psychological stability, and sense of well-being. The following strategies based on these Seven Spiritual Laws can help you navigate the holiday season with peace of mind and without falling prey to old ways of being that no longer serve you:
1.) The Law of Pure Potentiality – Cultivate Silence
The busyness of the holidays need not upset the core practices that help you maintain balance. Taking the time for daily meditation brings you into a state of restful awareness that can go a long way to reduce the stresses of the holiday season. It can also be helpful to spend some time in nature. Even taking a simple walk to mindfully observe birds, trees, or falling snow can be a beneficial way to quiet the mind and find calm in times where you feel overwhelmed.
2.) The Law of Giving and Receiving – Circulate Love
What is often described as “the holiday spirit” is a perfect example of this principle in action– the vital exchange of giving and receiving that expresses the abundance of the universe. The holidays are the perfect time to acknowledge the gifts we have received from our healthy way of life by offering gifts and showing gratitude. The most precious gifts we can give need not be extravagant, but can be offered through small acts of kindness, generosity, appreciation and caring.
3.) The Law of Karma – Make Conscious Choices
Be aware that the choices you make in every moment effect the future of your life. It takes great courage and commitment to step out of destructive behaviors, and by stepping back and witnessing each choice as it is presented, you empower yourself to make decisions that will lead you to a life of greater happiness and fulfillment. Whether you are attending a holiday party for work or a family dinner, anticipate situations that might be challenging for you and come up with a strategy as to how to address temptations to drink or slip back into old habits. Plan regular check-ins with a supportive friend, limit time in stressful environments or avoid them altogether. Stay conscious! Each life-affirming choice you make benefits you and those around you.
4) The Law of Least Effort – Take Responsibility
This principle encourages you to “do less in order to achieve more”. By taking responsibility for maintaining your own sobriety without the need to either blame or prove yourself to others, you allow yourself the freedom to respond to situations creatively and without the need to expend your energy on defending your ego. Take time for self care, make sure you are getting ample rest and don’t feel you have to discuss or defend your sobriety with others. When socializing at holiday gatherings, holding a non-alcoholic drink can be a helpful way to keep others from offering to get you a drink or asking questions that you don’t feel like answering.
5.) The Law of Intention and Desire – Set Clear Intentions
Be clear about your decision to remain abstinent over the holiday season. Often a relapse can occur if you allow cravings and emotions to accumulate. It is important therefore to address these problems as they arise and not allow them to build up. Through present moment awareness, you can take action in the moment to uphold your intention by taking action that supports the desire to maintain a healthy way of being. By taking actions of self-care and reaching out for support when needed, you can stay in alignment with your intention by addressing these concerns as they come up.
6.) The Law of Detachment – Practice Acceptance
Many of the emotional struggles that arise during the holiday season have to do with our attachments to “how things should be”. Conscious or unconscious ideas and expectations we carry about family, finances, or ourselves in relationship to the holidays can cause us to judge ourselves and others, creating unhappiness. Rather than struggling to force a person or situation to be the way we think it is “supposed to be”, accept what is and let go of attachment to the outcome. This may mean upholding healthy boundaries by removing yourself from a stressful situation. Detachment is a powerful tool which not only lessens stress and resentments, but creates a space for unexpected possibilities to present themselves.
7.) The Law of Dharma – Selfless Service
The holidays provide an important opportunity to recognize our essential, spiritual nature by focusing on others. Being helpful and giving to our communities and those around us can also be extremely rewarding, allowing us to bring more joy and gratitude into our lives. Find ways that you can be of service to others: Spend time with the elderly, assisting with a toy or food drive for families in need, serve a meal at a homeless shelter, or help to prepare or clean up after a holiday dinner or party.
You may recognize avoiding relapse and going without substances; allows you to embrace and enjoy opportunities to improve your relationship with self, others and beyond. By protecting yourself from old body memories associated with substances, you can enjoy new experiences of connection, kindness, and love.
Peace and love to all.