On Last week’s Bubble Hour podcast the topic was “people pleasing and surviving the holidays”. Despite some wonky screw ups at the opening of the show (gotta love live-to-air recordings!), the episode was full of great insights from our guests. If you are dreading the holidays ahead, it is worth a listen (or two).

One of my all-time favourite tips came from our guest Erin, who described how she survived a gathering at her home in early recovery.  She had already offered to host Thanksgiving and all the arrangements were in place, but meanwhile she had quit drinking. So with only 7 days of sobriety, Erin found herself facing the enormous challenge of playing hostess.

Someone in her support group recommended she create a safe space for herself, to have an escape plan if necessary. Before the guests arrived, she prepared a secret nest in her closet; complete with pillows, water, magazines and her smart phone. Whenever Erin felt overwhelmed, she snuck away and spent a few moments in her quiet hiding spot. She took a sip of cool water, calmed her mind, touched base with her online recovery group for encouragement and gathered her strength before returning to her guests. It wasn’t just the break from the holiday hubbub that gave her a much-needed boost; it was also the simple act of prioritizing self-care.

To protect your recovery over the holidays PLAN AHEAD. It is important to anticipate ways to administer self-care. This is different than worrying about “what ifs”: What if someone offers me a drink? What if I want to leave and my spouse doesn’t? What if people make me uncomfortable?

Instead, think proactively: I’ll bring along non-alcoholic drinks and keep my own glass filled. If someone asks why I am not drinking I can say I am driving. I’ll give my spouse cab fare so I can take the car home early if I want to leave.

You can also expect the unexpected – that you’ll enjoy yourself and things will be fine! This sounded outlandish to me when I first quit drinking because I was never comfortable or happy without a wineglass in hand. I had to relearn some basic social skills but sure enough, the fun returned. And yes, I have left plenty of parties early – graciously so, of course.

For more hints and tips, check out this post I wrote a year ago before heading away on a vacation. I planned ahead and as it turned out, I was pretty miserable on that trip but I did stay sober under some very difficult circumstances: https://unpickled.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/survival-strategies-for-holidays-and-vacations/

Take care of yourselves, my friends. The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most challenging.