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How to Stay Balanced at the Holidays When You Want to Go Off

Posted on 12/15/17: 12-Steps \ Addiction Prevention \ Health Tips \ Mindfulness
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Keeping it together on any normal day of the year is hard enough. Add the extra traffic from the influx of winter visitors, shorter days, nighttime distractions, and hoping there’s enough of your paycheck to go around for the bills and Christmas shopping – it’s a recipe for a mental meltdown. On top of that, adjusting to sober living might feel great but sometimes it can really put a cramp on the social schedule. There’s no doubt that once December hits, it can push anyone to their personal limits. Is there a secret trick to get through it in once piece? Not exactly; however, understanding why you have those moments where you want to go off might ease the strain. Discover how to stay balanced and drug free at the holidays, without too much additional effort.

The Art of Practicing Emotional Sobriety

You’ve gone through your drug or alcohol treatment program and might be coasting through sober living, despite the daily hard work. (There’s a reason why it’s referred to as working the program.) Each day, you’re getting more comfortable with physical sobriety.

On the flipside, you could be your own worst critic, coming down on yourself for not being where you think you should be (there’s that word should) and not enjoying where you are. Stop. Go up in this same paragraph and see the italicized words ‘not being’. This is the first of many roadblocks in handling stress, we tend to fight or forget whatever is in front of us, which sends us (consciously or subconsciously) into anger or sadness. Let’s take a deeper dive into that process.

Just Past Resistance Lies Acceptance

Most of us wake up each day with a preconceived idea about what our day entails and if it’s going to be a good day or a bad day. Life is full of surprises. Sure, happiness is a choice. But let’s say it’s Tuesday. You have your typical morning. You get to work. You get blamed for something that wasn’t your fault. Uh-oh. As you can imagine, that’s the kind of trigger to get anyone’s blood boiling. And in that moment when you are accused of whatever it is that you didn’t do, the adrenaline sets in. Without emotional sobriety, the rush of anger might take control over what comes out of your mouth or where your fists wind up (sucker punch perhaps?).

Your internal defense mechanism, how you are wired to react to stress, might opt to ignore the issue. Literally, something inside the mind will elect to turn off the moment it takes in information that it cannot process. The situation gets buried, as if it never happened. It will resurface emotionally at another time, with greater velocity.

Whether you react with an unprofessional outburst or bury the confrontation, both are pushbacks, resisting the true dialogue that needs to happen. Here’s how you can get past it and deal, effectively.

Happiness Is a State-of-Mind, Chosen

Young man smiles wrapping Christmas gifts

I’m not sure how this started in our culture. We grow up believing that we are supposed to be happy. At Christmas, during Hannukah, Kwanza and New Year’s Eve. That puts a lot of pressure on us to be happy. Moreover, there are many days filled with circumstances that won’t make you happy. Traumatic events won’t make you happy. Waiting five minutes at the shopping mall for a parking lot space won’t make you happy. And when that airhead, coming from the next aisle over, who claims she didn’t see you waiting for it takes the spot for herself and smiles at you while she’s doing it. That’s not going to make you happy either.

Flipping her off won’t make you happy, just angrier. Screaming at the top of your lungs won’t help, though you’ll get a good sore throat out of it. Simply shift your perspective. Don’t resist what happened to you. Don’t ignore what happened to you. Accept it, without judgement. And move on.

Coping Is Being in the Here and Now, No Matter What

There are merits to intellectual or behavioral distractions during moments of stress, where you focus on other people or tasks instead of the issue at hand. Some practice mindfulness by listening to music, exercise, yoga or reading a book. John Welwood, a clinical psychologist, refers to “spiritual bypass” when people use “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep emotional ‘unfinished business’… or feelings… in the name of enlightenment.”

Unfortunately, stressful events don’t always happen at a place and time where we can hit the “delay or deflect” button on our response. To have emotional sobriety is to acknowledge the situation the moment it arises and embrace the myriad of feelings that come with it. Knowing how to cope with situations and feelings can lead to sustained happiness.

Acknowledging Feelings Engages Balance

An integral part of the human experience is built upon our feelings. We feel is what we feel. If we judge ourselves for how we feel, this engages a cycle of self-hate and self-defeat which does nothing to support happiness or sober living. Be accepting of who you are, in every moment. Be careful not to connect meaning to feelings. Often, it is not our feelings that we have trouble with but the meaning we attach to them that causes undue stress and harm. Feelings are temporary; therefore, judgement is a waste of precious energy.

Back to that Woman Who Stole Your Parking Space

You’re not going to give her the finger. You’re not going to force a smile and get out of your car to open her door. You are going to accept feelings of disappointment, anger and frustration because your time and patience was wasted. Then, you dance with emotional sobriety by embracing the fact that there will be another parking space with your name on it. If that space is far away, feel gratitude for having a car and the ability to get to the store. Then smile to yourself and say aloud, “Happy Holidays.”

Sober Living in Arizona Supports Emotional Sobriety

Call for Details 602-737-2458.

Image of Melanie SternAuthored by Melanie Stern, Content Director for soberlivingaz.com, writer and broadcaster covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.


If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact Sober Living of AZ now to get the help you need. Sober Living offers an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare. Call us now at 602-737-2458.

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