With proper preparation, winter is a time to get cozy and a time to indulge in all sorts of things: comfort food, delicious treats, and open fires. Winter can also offer us more time. We can develop new skills, sharpen old ones, and prepare for the following year.
But it can also be a time of increased anxiety about potentially relapsing. And this is especially true when we consider the long holiday season. We had Thanksgiving, which rolled directly into Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM), causing many of us to indulge not only our stomachs but our wallets as well. Then we began Advent. A spiritual season of preparation for the birth of our Lord. Soon it will be Christmas, followed by New Year’s.
And throughout this entire season, we may be dealing with stress, anxiety, frustration, temptations, and urges. That’s why we need a “Holiday Battle Plan.”
Here are four strategies for developing a “Holiday Battle Plan” to help us maintain our recovery this season.
1. Stick to Your Weekly Routine
Keep to your usual routine as much as possible, ensuring you are accomplishing your goals that are ingredient to your recovery (prayer, reading, exercise, 12-step meetings, etc.). It’s easier to lose track of individual days during the holidays if we’re not careful and slide on our obligations and commitments to maintaining our recovery.
2. Be Especially Disciplined On Days of Greater Temptation
When we’re going to be around food or alcohol for some engagement, we can commit to a solid morning routine that day. For me, I try to get in a short workout (pushups, situps, burpees in the bedroom/home gym). We can also eat a small snack before heading over to the big meal (so we are not as hungry and less likely to binge). By being disciplined with our eating it’s less likely we’ll start down the slippery slope of giving in, which could lead to a serious relapse, such as drinking alcohol (for those who struggle with alcoholism).
3. Have an Escape Plan
It’s very important to plan a way out (talk to your spouse about this if you’re married). If certain family members trigger you, make sure you have an “escape plan” in place. Remember, you are not obligated to spend time with them—especially if they might put you in danger of relapse. If visiting, plan to leave early. If hosting, plan to go for a walk, take a nap, or volunteer to run an errand when you sense temptation building.
And if it gets really bad, don’t be afraid to ask them to leave. Again, your recovery is critical, and it’s important to limit exposure to people who may not respect your recovery and/or support you with it.
4. Enjoy Yourself, Be Present with Loved Ones, and Laugh!
While this season can be a time of temptations, it is also a time to praise the Lord for the gift of health, family, joy, mercy, and our recovery. By being aware of the many blessings we have received from God, we can be reminded why maintaining recovery is so important and such a gift to both us and our loved ones.
Some General Advice for Maintaining Our Recovery
I want to share some general advice as well to help us keep hope and maintain our recovery, be that during the holiday season or any other time of the year.
Whenever we are about to engage in something we should ask ourselves, “Is this something that is going to help or hurt my recovery/reboot?” It might be considering whether another drink is a good idea (assuming our struggle is not alcoholism but, say, pornography). Or it might be asking ourselves whether watching a certain show late at night could put us in the near occasion of sin. We have to ask, “Is this action going to help me draw closer to my goal of recovery?” This should be applied to all that we do, including the actions we engage in, the places we go, and the people with whom we interact.
Make decisions based on goals, not emotions. It can help to visualize the results of our decisions before we act on them. Visualize how everything will look, smell, sound, feel, and taste, so that we are ready to choose rightly. The more we make the right decision, the more it will become a habit. Habits help with consistency. And consistency leads to sobriety.
Be prepared for challenges. Challenges will always offer us an opportunity to grow because confidence is built from overcoming these challenges.
Finally, share your “Holiday Battle Plan” with your spouse, sponsor, trusted accountability partner, or someone else whom you trust to help ensure you stick to it. And make sure to add your own strategies and tools to it as you see fit.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
Aaron Walter is a lifelong Catholic, former porn addict whose ministry, NewMenRising is dedicated to pornography addiction recovery. He is a coach, mentor, and accountability partner. Passionate about helping husbands kick their addiction and transform their lives and relationships. Connect at aaronwaltercoaching.com.