If this is going to be your first Christmas sober, you may be concerned about how you are going to get through it without drinking alcohol. The reality is that there will be lots of drinking triggers at this time of year. It does get easier, but the first Christmas sober will require that you be on high alert against relapse. Mindfulness is an incredibly effective tool, so here are five ways that it can make things easier for you over the holiday period:
1. Use Mindfulness to Deal with Any Cravings
Cravings arise when they are triggered by something in your environment. These start as just thoughts in your mind until you resist them or obsess about them – this then leads to physical and emotional cravings that can feel overwhelming if you continue to let it grow. The trick with mindfulness is just observe the initial thought as it arises in a non-judgmental or resistant way – just look at it as an outsider would do. No craving lasts more than about 20 minutes, so all you have to do is sit with it until it passes. The more you do this, the less power these cravings have over you and the less frequently they arise in your mind.
2. Stay Mindful of Addiction Triggers
Christmas can be a minefield if you are not mindful of all the triggers in your environment. It would be great to completely avoid these triggers, but it is not possible if there are too many of them. Mindfulness will allow you to just observe these triggers as they arise and pass away, so they do not even get a chance to progress to cravings. Traditional approaches to recovery provide individual techniques for dealing with different triggers, but the great thing about mindfulness is that it can work for any trigger.
3. Escape to the Peace of Mindfulness When Things Become Tough
Mindfulness is in essence the exact opposite of ‘escaping’ because it is about experiencing what is actually happening in the present moment. It does feel similar to an escape though when you are caught up in mindlessness. Bringing yourself back to this moment can be like sinking into a warm bath. If you are becoming worked up, it will move you out of the ‘flight and flight’ response; if you are anxious, it will lead you back to peace and calm.
4. Handle Your Relationships Mindfully Over the Christmas Period
If you can bring mindfulness to your relationships, it can lead to an amazing transformation in how you relate to others. It is important to not have any expectations, but just allowing others to be themselves is a practice in itself. You can also use skills such as mindful listening to really make people feel as if you are hearing what they are saying. If you are more mindful about your speech, you are far less likely to say something that is hurtful.
5. Use Mindfulness to Be Fully Present for Christmas
Christmas can be a time of great joy, but only if you are actually present to fully experience these emotions. The problem is that most people tend to be mindless for a lot of the time (working on autopilot), meaning that they can sleepwalk through not only Christmas but also most of their lives. By coming back to the present moment, you really get to experience what is happening right now – it is only at those times when you are mindful that you are truly experiencing Christmas, and each of these moments are special.