November 29, 2020
Q: How can I increase my interaction with other people while staying safe?
A: Unfortunately, this is a problem for nearly everyone right now. But it’s especially tough for those in recovery who need to maintain meaningful connections to stay well.
The holidays are a stressful, emotional time of year. It can be a struggle to stay sober at family dinners or other holiday parties. Of course, this year is extra complicated because of the pandemic.
Normally I tell members to try attending a 12-step or SMART Recovery meeting if they’re uncomfortable being at family functions. I also encourage them to be selective with who they spend time with. Early recovery is an especially vulnerable time and it’s important to surround yourself with people who support you.
And no matter what your situation is, please avoid drinking or using alone. Opioids are especially dangerous for those in recovery; please make sure someone knows where you are and how you're doing. Loved ones - it may be difficult, but please let the person with addiction know they can always call you, even if they're actively using.
With COVID-19 in mind, my holiday suggestions look just a little different:
– Virtual support group meetings are certainly an option, although they may not be your preference. Try it once or twice. If they’re not for you, at least you gave it a shot. Try doing some research to find a group or organization that you feel comfortable with.
– If weather permits, you can meet a friend for a walk. I’ve even seen people bring lawn chairs to parking lots so they can talk while maintaining distance. Time spent outside, particularly if you’re exercising, is great for your mental health.
– Schedule your social gatherings remotely. Zoom is a great way to connect with the people you care about but be ready to leave early if people start drinking heavily. Dave has some good tips for navigating holiday parties here.
– Try creating a new holiday tradition just for you. It could be as simple as decorating, baking or finding a new place to volunteer. The holidays will certainly look different this year, but there are plenty of things you can do to celebrate. It’s important to strike a healthy balance between connection with others and feeling comfortable spending time alone.
At the end of the day, connection can take many different forms. Writing letters, playing video games with friends in a voice chat, joining a new Facebook group – everyone’s list will look a little different.
Remember that you’re not alone and we can all get through this, together.
Stay well, and happy holidays!