News /10th Dec 19

Rutland Centre Offers Advice for People Managing Recovery this Christmas

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Lower your Expectations and Cushion Yourself with Support

While December is a time of celebration for many, for many others and particularly for those who are managing Recovery, the festive period can be particularly difficult. The Rutland Centre, Ireland’s foremost addiction treatment centre has published the following tips from a former client and its own team to help people cope during the coming festive period.

Conor Byrne (25), a former client of the Rutland Centre’s who is now three years in Recovery, offered the following three tips:

‘Lower Your Expectations: Christmas is a really hard time of the year for people who are in Recovery and especially in early Recovery. The best advice I can give is to lower your expectations. Don’t expect too much. There is huge pressure on people to have a joyous, wholesome, wonderful day which is a not a reality for many or even most and if you build up Christmas to be that day, you are setting yourself up for misery. Be realistic, enjoy the moments you can and don’t force yourself to have the ‘most wonderful time of the year.’

‘Protect yourself and be selfish, especially if you’re in early Recovery. By selfish I mean, if you find a particular social gathering stressful or it may make you anxious, then don’t go. Family and friends may not understand this completely, but that’s okay because once you understand that’s all that matters. Your recovery must be number one priority. If you must go, make sure you have a plan that includes support and an exit strategy. For example, there have been several social gatherings over the last three years where I have decided to opt out and my family and friends have supported me, or someone comes with me who knows when to leave. At some occasions the plan is as straight forward as bringing my own water bottle, so I don’t end up drinking someone else’s drink.’

‘Surround yourself with support – The festivities and lights can have an appealing look and when everyone else is drinking you might really think you’ll be okay if you just have one drink. But a tool I still use now, is to play the tape forward before making any decisions. Look past the smoke and mirrors of it all and remember that on the 2nd January when all the festivities are over, everyone else will go back to work, but you might be trapped in the cycle of addiction once again. All of this can be avoided by taking two minutes to think before making any final decisions. Make a phone call rather than a decision. Get to as many meetings as you possibly can. Talk to your aftercare group. The idea of doing all of this is to surround yourself with a network of support so that if you do fall, there’s a couple of safety nets to go through before you hit the ground. Prevention is better than cure.’

The Rutland Centre team added the following advice:

1. Socialisation – Not Isolation

If you or a family member is in Recovery, don’t feel like you have to hide away. Isolation itself can increase anxiety and stress so meet people but avoid places or gatherings associated with your addiction. Try and do something different and on your terms.

2. Zero is not your Hero

Be mindful of your triggers and make provisions to protect yourself. For example, be clear and unapologetic in any statements youmake about drinking – such as “I am not drinking alcohol, thanks but I’d love a soft drink.” Avoid ‘zero alcohol’ or non-alcoholic drinks. The drinking ritual involved paired with the smell andtaste of alcohol can trigger a desire to drink. Avoid post-Christmas race meetings if gambling is your addiction.

3. Accept don’t Expect

Avoid putting too much pressure on yourself or your friend or family member to have the perfect Christmas. Accept the situation, set your own goals and manage yours and others’ expectations.

4. Ring-fence your Recovery

It’s ok to have boundaries. Don’t put pressure on yourself or on your family member to attend an event or a gathering that could trigger a relapse. Ringfence your Recovery and protect yourself. Attend to your recovery with the same dedication you would throughout the year- get to AA/NA/GA meetings, and be around like minded people.

5. Support

Spend time with those you can trust and who will support your Recovery. Avoid those who will make you feel ashamed or encourage you to take part in harmful behaviour. It can be a good idea to have a pre-decided dedicated person to ring over the festive period if you’re feeling down or triggered. Ideally this person would be more established in recovery than you.

If you are in Recovery yourself, know where you can go to for support if you need it, try and make a plan for this prior to the festive period commencing. For friends and family, support your family member or friend by asking them to choose how they would like to spend the day and reducing the risk of exposure to triggers for them.

The Rutland Centre is open over Christmas and New Year. To contact the Rutland Centre, email or phone [01 494 6358](tel:01 494 6358).

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