You have taken the first step on your path to sobriety and are no longer using drugs or alcohol. Congratulations! As you’ve undoubtedly discovered, you are still facing challenges along the way but you are progressing on the road to recovery. This year, the holidays are going to look different for almost everyone because of COVID-19. They look especially different for you as you enter your first sober holiday season. When you know what to expect, you’ll be better prepared to enjoy the holidays.
A Different Holiday Season
In the time of COVID-19, family gatherings will be limited or non-existent. Likewise, parties filled with alcohol and possibly even drugs probably won’t happen as much this year either. That said, because of the pandemic, at least some of the usual holiday temptations may be eliminated or significantly reduced for you. However, you need to understand what to expect during your first sober holiday season that is also being guided by pandemic restrictions.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
When you are newly sober, you may experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). PAWS symptoms most commonly manifest after you withdraw from alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids, although they can also occur after you stop using other psychoactive substances as well. You may experience symptoms for weeks or months after you become sober.
Symptoms of PAWS, which may become worse when you are under a severe amount of stress, are similar to those found in mood disorders and anxiety disorders, including mood swings, insomnia, and increased levels of anxiety. Some of the most common symptoms of PAWS include:
- Difficulty with cognitive tasks, such as learning, problem solving, or memory recall
- Feelings of anxiety or panic
- Depressed mood
If you find that you are experiencing these symptoms, contact your addiction treatment provider. You may need additional therapy, such as behavioral therapy, to help you deal with PAWS during your first sober holiday season.
Many people find the holidays stressful under normal circumstances. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has added to that stress level. As you enter the holiday season newly sober, you will also face some specific stressful situations. Even though family gatherings and holiday parties are limited, you may feel pressure to participate in an online party via video chat. Your friends and family members may want you to join them in a toast to the holidays.
Stay focused on your recovery. Connect with people in your life who form your positive support network. Explain to those friends and family members who want to know why you are behaving differently this year that you no longer drink or do drugs and stand firm in your conviction regarding your sobriety. When you feel the temptation to have “just one drink” or other substances to which you know you are addicted, reach out to a trusted friend or family member who understands and supports your recovery.
Establish New Traditions
Holiday traditions are changing this year for almost everyone. They should change for you as well, as this is your first sober holiday season and you want to be able to enjoy it without drugs or alcohol. This is a great time to establish some new traditions. You can plan some excursions to drive-through light shows in your area, so you can enjoy the holiday light displays from the comfort and safety of your car. Fix a cup of hot cocoa, a bowl of popcorn, and find some classic holiday shows to watch at home.
Decorate your home with lights, garland, and a festive tree, so you have a holiday environment to enjoy each day and evening. Whatever you decide to do, make it as stress-free as possible, knowing you don’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations. You simply have to stay sober and healthy.
Continue Your Self Care
During the holiday season, continue to focus on taking care of yourself. When you’ve been addicted to drugs or alcohol, your physical and mental health have suffered. Take the time during your first sober holiday season to get some exercise, go outside and get some fresh air, eat nutritious meals, and get plenty of quality sleep. To help further reduce your stress, practice relaxation strategies, such as mindfulness meditation and yoga. Continue participating in support group meetings and reach out to your addiction treatment professional when you need help.
Makana Path Offers Help During COVID-19
At Makana Path, we know this will be a challenging holiday season for many reasons. You are not alone. We are here to help, with an intensive healing approach that will help you continue in your addiction recovery as you regain control over your life. To learn more about getting help for your mental health or addiction during COVID-19, contact Makana Path today by calling 1-866-313-0978.