Completing treatment for a substance use disorder is a milestone to be proud of, but it isn’t a finish line. Recovery is a lifelong process of learning where your triggers are and adapting, and the holidays can be a tough time for people in early recovery for a variety of reasons. This time of year often means encountering extra stress, family dysfunction and a busier-than-usual schedule.
This sobriety checklist for the 12 Days of Christmas will help you stay strong in your recovery this season. Do them each day, and you’ll arrive in the new year ready to navigate even the most challenging of days.
1. Eat a healthy diet.
Eating healthy food promotes better physical and mental health, keeps cravings at bay and stabilizes your mood. A good goal is to eat mostly plants, along with lean proteins. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
2. Exercise regularly.
Daily exercise reduces your stress, and according to Harvard University, it’s a proven treatment for depression that’s often as effective as medication.1 Try to fit a half hour of activity into most days. Go for a walk, hit the gym, do some yard work or take a yoga class.
3. Get plenty of sleep.
Adequate sleep keeps your body functioning optimally. A lack of sleep can lead to mood swings, fatigue and cognitive troubles. If you’re struggling with a sleep problem, which is common in early recovery, talk to your doctor or counselor.
4. Relax and have fun.
Fun and relaxation reduce stress and improve your quality of life. Make time each day to relax and enjoy yourself. Kick back with your favorite people, take a relaxing bath or enjoy a good book.
5. Stay mindful.
Mindfulness is the act of being in the present moment and focusing your attention on what’s happening. What are you thinking and feeling? Staying connected to your thoughts and emotions keeps you on top of recovery.
6. Reduce your stress.
Stress is a major trigger for relapse. Whenever you feel stress, take a few quiet moments to engage in deep-breathing exercises, which reduce stress hormones on the spot and lower your body’s stress response.
7. Engage with your support group.
Peer support is crucial for successful recovery. Attend a meeting every day, and participate while you’re there. Share openly and honestly, and offer encouragement to other members who are experiencing a rough time.
8. Be honest.
Honesty should be a component of any sobriety checklist, because honesty with yourself and with others is a cornerstone of recovery.2 Be honest about what you’re feeling and what you need from others.
9. Ask for help.
When you’re struggling, ask for help. Contact your sponsor, therapist or a supportive friend or family member. Not asking for help when you need it sets the stage for relapse. Remember that you can’t do this alone, and that you have a support system of people who are willing to help.
10. Express gratitude.
Expressing gratitude each day helps draw your attention to the progress you’ve made and the people who are central to your recovery. Gratitude is a spiritual practice that can help you keep a positive mindset.
11. Keep a journal.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings helps to improve your self-awareness, and it allows you to reflect back on your recovery journey. Every day, jot down some notes in your journal. You don’t have to write a novel—just a few sentences or a bulleted list will do just fine.
12. Engage in hobbies.
Engaging in a hobby combats boredom, reduces stress and brings enjoyment to life. Develop some hobbies that you can do alone and with others, and make a point to spend a little time engaging with them each day.
Through good health, mindfulness and finding sober ways to enjoy yourself, you can improve your chances of successful recovery while improving your overall quality of life. This sobriety checklist takes work, but it’s work that will serve you well in all areas of your life.