Additionally, as addicts and alcoholics, we tend to bear somewhat tortured pasts – very few of us cling to nothing but happy memories of the holiday season. Perhaps this time of year conjures memories of holidays we previously ruined while heavily intoxicated. Perhaps our family is still estranged, or we are tormented by fond recollections of loved ones who have since passed. Many of us associate the holiday season with overindulgence and excess; extravagant benders that left us with serious relationship problems and superfluous personal loss. Whatever the reason (and there may be many), the holidays are typically quite emotionally strenuous. Feelings of sadness, melancholy, and grief often bubble to the surface, and it may seem easier to just dwell in a tinseled puddle of self-loathing and seclusion than strive to permanently change tradition. However, we need not succumb to the Christmas blues, or let our past mistakes get the better of us. If we plan ahead and take precaution, we can make it through the holiday season entirely unscathed.
It is important to develop and stick to a realistic plan, one that will help to combat the blues while working to create new memories before old ones have the chance to threaten your overall well-being. Pay special attention to self-care, amp up your meeting attendance, and involve yourself in as many opportunities for service work as humanly possible. Below we have listed a few more suggestions geared towards achieving a joyous, sober, and serene holiday season.
Staying Sober Through the Holidays
- Practice Self-Care
During the holiday season, we are encouraged to focus on being charitable, and give back in every way that we possibly can. While it is always fun to do for others, it can be a bit exhausting. It is vital that we remember to show ourselves the same love and compassion that we are showing others. Take some quiet alone time every day, and jot down a quick gratitude list. Remaining grateful throughout the season will do wonders as far as enhancing an optimistic outlook. Incorporate meditation and prayer into your daily routine, regardless of how insanely busy you are. Take a yoga class or two. Relax your self-imposed standards a bit – it is not your job to keep everyone happy and entertained! Try to reduce the overwhelming and unrealistic demands you put on yourself, and remember what the season is truly all about – joy, gratitude, and peace amongst men. Be kind to yourself and actively practice self-care.
- Bolster Your Sober Support System
It is easy to let your meeting attendance slip during the holiday season seeing as traveling, spending time with family, and attending party after party tends to take top priority. This year, try to amp up your meeting attendance. Reach out more frequently, and spend as much time as possible with fellow men and women in recovery. Allow those in your support system help you to recognize your personal limits, and practice setting boundaries with your loved ones. Learning to say “no” in a way that is comfortable for you is especially important around this time of year.
- Focus on Your Program
It is all too easy to place stepwork on the backburner around this time of year, seeing as there is so much extraneous activity going on. It is exceedingly important that we keep up with our daily practices, and remember to keep our recovery as our top priority. Are you continuously taking a daily inventory? Are you still striving to bolster and improve your spiritual connection through daily prayer and meditation? Are you involved in service work? Fortunately, there are many opportunities to engage in service work around the holidays – most meeting houses will host alcathons, there will be many prospects for volunteer work, and you can always organize a toy or canned food drive if you find yourself with a little spare time. Do what your can to keep your recovery first!
- Work Through Resentments
Resentments may gain steam during the holiday season, which can result in personal disaster (considering resentment is widely known as the number one offender). A resentment is often described as allowing someone or something you vehemently dislike to live in your head, rent-free. Memories surrounding this person, place, or thing cause you great emotional discomfort, despite the fact that he, she, or it wronged you long ago. Perhaps you can’t seem to get over the fact that your drunken dad consistently forgot to buy you and your siblings Christmas gifts, or that your Orthodox Jewish parents shoved religion so far down your throat you seem to be perpetually turned off by the holidays in their entirety. Take this opportunity to work through some deep-seated resentments, and return the season to a base of spirituality and altruism.
- Try Not to Overindulge
It is important that we remember to take care of our physical bodies as well as our spiritual and emotional health. It is exceptionally easy to go drastically overboard on holiday sweets and sugary drinks – cookies and candy and cocoa, oh my! Try to limit your intake, and remember to exercise regularly in order to keep your energy levels somewhat balanced. Try to keep up with your sleep schedule as well, seeing as fatigue can be a trigger. Planning ahead and getting all of your holiday shopping done early will help to reduce stress levels, and trying to maintain a balanced diet (within reason) will help you to feel more emotionally composed.
- Create New Traditions
In some cases, completely redefining the holiday season will prove necessary. Create some new traditions! Host a gift exchange with a circle of close friends, or a Home Alone viewing party with hot apple cider and some sugar cookie decorating. Rally up a couple of sober friends to volunteer at a soup kitchen, or bring AA meetings into hospitals or rehabilitation centers. Avoid isolation at all costs, and spend time with friends who are not getting trashed off of spiked egg nog. Avoiding parties that you know will be drenched in liquor and related drama is probably a smart decision, and if you absolutely must go to a booze-filled holiday party (which you never do, by the way), be sure to invite along a sober support, and develop a quick and efficient escape plan.
Pay Attention to Your Personal Needs
Remember that unlike clinical depression, which is typically far more severe and can last for years when left untreated, the blues you experience around the holidays are temporary, and can be easily remedied. If the feelings do last beyond the holiday season, and you begin to experience other symptoms of depression such as decreased appetite, persistent sadness and hopelessness, changes in sleeping patterns, or a significant reduction in libido and energy levels, it is crucial that you seek help from a mental health professional. It is normal to feel a little anxious and lonely around this time of year – the key is taking action, and doing what you can to change the way you view the holidays!
Happy Holidays from all of us at Next Chapter Treatment!