Christmas is a time when you will probably be spending more time with your family than usual. It can be wonderful to have this time together, but it can also be challenging, which can especially be the case if you are in early recovery. Zen Buddhists recommend that if you want to find out if a master is truly enlightened, you should observe these people when they are staying with their family. The problem is that your family members are probably highly skilled at ‘pressing your ‘buttons’ and it is difficult to not just slip into habitual behaviours when you are in this environment. Here are a few tips for how you can survive Christmas with your family.
Go to Some Recovery Meetings
If you have plenty of recovery meetings to go to over the holiday season, it is going to make things much easier for you. These meetings mean that you will be around other people who understand the thoughts and emotions you are going through, and you can gain great strength from the other members. If you are visiting family in a different town or city, make sure you find the location of some local meetings before you arrive. If you are in early recovery, it might be a good idea to attend at least one meeting per day over the holidays. It is also a good idea to take some phone numbers so you can reach out if you start to feel a bit wobbly.
Immerse Yourself into Sobriety
This can be a good time to boost your sobriety by reading plenty of recovery literature, listening to podcasts or audio books, or watching YouTube videos. This material can be a bit like nutrition; being a source of strength if you are struggling due to spending some much time with your family. These days the availability of smart phones and tablet devices means you can easily access recovery resources whenever and wherever you happen to be.
Don’t Have Unrealistic Expectations for Your Family
Expectations are often described as resentments in the making. If you have expectations about how your family should treat you now that you are sober, you are likely to be disappointed. All people see themselves as the main character in their world, meaning that they behave to their own script and not yours. Your family are likely delighted that you are sober, but they also have their own problems to deal with as well as their own way of reacting to your sobriety.
Don’t Rise to the Bait
Most people revert to habitual behaviour when they are around their family. You may behave like a saint when you are with strangers, but your family know how to press your buttons; many of your reactions can just be as if you are on automatic pilot. If you have been practicing mindfulness, you should have to ability to think before you act. This gives you the option of not rising to the bait – for example, if your brother says something that you would give an automatic snarky reply to, you can choose not to do this because you are mindful.
Walk Away When You Are Getting Angry
The problem with acting out of anger is that you are probably going to do something you later regret. This is because once anger takes over your thinking, it is harder to think rationally – this emotion triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response and you just act impulsively. If you find yourself getting annoyed with your family, you need to take a break from them. You can do this by going for a walk or, better yet, to a recovery meeting. If there is something you need to say to your family about how they are behaving, it is much better that you do this when you have a clear head.