The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone but being in recovery can make things feel more challenging. Some of the tips apply any time of year for gatherings: have your own transportation so you can leave when you’re ready, bring a sober support buddy, have your sober support network on standby for calls or texts if needed. But holidays bring about more issues for many of us. The messages we receive from society and the media show the holidays as family-centric, and it can create a feeling that without a perfect family, we cannot enjoy the holiday season.
Holidays can mean more time with family, and some of us may have strained family relationships. It can be hard to put boundaries up with family members, but we need to protect our recovery. Not everyone will understand your recovery – people will still offer you eggnog, they may ask why you are not drinking, or they may even try to convince you to have a drink. Having plans in place can help make it easier to address these potential issues if they arise. Role-playing with your sober support network might help you feel more comfortable with erecting boundaries with family members.
In addition to having strained or troubled relationships with family members, the holidays can be hard for other reasons. We may have lost people close to us and, with the family-centric messages of the holiday season, it can make it feel like the holiday season is nothing to celebrate. It can cause sadness and depression, and it might contribute to feeling like we want to use our substance of choice to alleviate those feelings.
This is what I experience during the holiday season, and the most important thing for me is my sober support network. I lost my parents during the holiday season, and I often feel angry or sad that they aren’t here. It feels like there is a big hole in the holiday season. One thing I do is I make sure I tell on myself – if I have the urge to drink, or even just think that drinking might make me feel better – I make sure to tell someone in my sober support network. I am lucky to have a large sober support network that lets me talk about me feelings and helps me navigate them.
Another thing that has helped me during the holiday season is creating new traditions. My family had traditions that we followed every holiday season. I keep some of them intact, but I also change some up or create new traditions. One thing that I have started doing is decorating for Christmas over Thanksgiving weekend, giving me plenty of time to enjoy my holiday decorations. I’ve also kept some family traditions, like making cinnamon rolls on both Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings. This way, I still feel connected to my family of origin even though my parents aren’t here, but I also feel like I’m taking ownership of how I experience the holiday season.
There are ways to experience and enjoy the holiday season in recovery, it is just about finding what works for you. THRIVE can be part of your sober support network by supporting your recovery, offering one-on-one recovery coaching, and facilitating groups geared toward people in recovery.