It can be a real challenge staying in recovery at this time of year. Everywhere you look there seems to be food, alcohol, drugs…it’s hard to see anything other than the things you have decided to stop doing. I’ve noticed this phenomenon before in my life, for example after I had a miscarriage all I seemed to see were pregnant women everywhere. Believe it or not, this process has a name: attentional bias. Your brain can take in massive amounts of diverse information, but we would live in a state of perpetual overwhelm if we didn’t have a filter system. So according to past preferences and current stimuli, your brain begins a selection process to decide what to bring to your conscious attention. Thus if you have prioritised a certain topic for long enough, your brain is primed to clear it through the selection process and hey presto: it arrives as a conscious thought.
Thus in the early stages of recovery your behaviour may have changed but the filter system remains as it was for a while, offering up ‘stinking thinking’ supported by evidence provided by your brain’s attentional bias. You need to be able to challenge this primed experience and seek out new experiences that are clean and sober, as they do exist.
It is that familiar dichotomy: listen to your feelings, don’t listen to your feelings. This means that you need to be able to have your feelings, but don’t let them dictate your behaviour. Do not believe your own press, instead stick to the plan!
So this New Year’s Eve don’t wait to be hijacked by old thoughts, make plans!
- Find out if any of your sober friends want to go out and make arrangements to meet and go out together as a crowd
- Go somewhere familiar – its often tempting to do something different because its NYE, but it often goes wrong
- Don’t call anyone from your past on a whim: stay in the present with people you are with
- If you do want to go out in a mixed crowd, make sure someone you trust in onside to help support you to stay sober, and lean on them
- Know what you will drink – here’s a few of my and friends favourites… ginger beer, cranberry juice, lime and soda, lemonade, elderflower, appletise, Virgin Mary,
- Remember it’s the build up of feelings (usually resentment) that fuels a relapse – be with people you can talk honestly to, and talk to them!
- If you decide to stay in on your own make sure you have things to entertain you – DVDs or a good book, with a healthy meal and a couple of friends phone numbers to check in with because that pang of loneliness may come and it’s a powerful adversary to take on alone…channel flicking at midnight is NOT a good idea as you are likely to see the best bits of everyone else’s parties and you will feel its too late to call to chat…
- If you run into trouble, call the AA/NA helpline – there is always someone to speak to who understands…you are truly not alone: many have gone before you and many will follow, all you have to do is the rest right thing
- Get to a meeting on NYE and remember the gift that is recovery: share positively
- Before you take any decision, play the tape forward and call someone
And at the end of the day, remember, its just another night. So here’s wishing you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope that 2013 mark the beginning of a year that you are proud of.