Oh, the Holidays! The weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year are a special time of year full of friends, family, joy, and celebration. But this time of year can be difficult for those in early recovery. Often, early recovery is spent in long-term residential treatment or in a sober living environment, and this can make for a very different holiday experience.
Here are some tips to help those in early recovery make this holiday season a success:
1. Remember the Reason for the Season!
‘Tis the season to buy presents! American retailers capitalize off of our need to spread Christmas cheer through gifts. We must remember that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who was born to save us from sin and give us eternal life. Keeping Christ in Christmas and embracing the spiritual celebrations, puts all of our other expectations for the holiday season in perspective.
2. Give from the Heart
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with guilt and shame about not having resources to give presents and to those you love. If you are currently in treatment or in a sober living environment, there are other types of gifts that can be even more meaningful. Writing a simple card with a heartfelt quote or scripture, a phone call or visit, or lending a helping hand with a special project, will show the special people in your life that your love and holiday spirit.
4. Be Creative, Find Healthy New Ways to Celebrate the Season
For some of us, it’s hard to imagine the Holidays without drugs and alcohol. But, for those in early recovery, this time of year can be a chance to rediscover how to have fun without drugs and/or alcohol. Take a few moments and reflect on simple pleasures like a perfect cup of hot cocoa, picking out the perfect Christmas tree or sledding with friends and family. Find out what is happening in the church and what other Christian and sobriety-based events are happening in your community and if appropriate, get involved. Enjoy your time in a sober living environment or residential treatment, this is the time you need to heal and your recovery journey is only just begun. Embrace the journey and give thanks for your new life in recovery.
5. Share Your Feelings
The holidays can bring back memories and feelings, that some of which would be better forgotten. Sometimes the holiday season can remind us of our past experiences that involved drinking and drug use. If you grew up in an unstable or traumatic home, this time of year can provoke painful childhood memories. Others may have feelings of stress, disappointment, and loneliness. The worst thing to do is to keep all these feelings bottled up inside. If you are feeling uncomfortable, talk about it. One of the best ways to keep our emotions in control is to share our feelings with a trusted sponsor, mental health professional, sober friend or family member.
6. Keep It Real By Setting Realistic Expectations
We are surrounded by imagery of magical holiday experiences, but sometimes the best holiday’s are simple and stress-free. Be thankful for the quiet times and keep Christmas as a spiritual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. We are not saying your first holiday season in recovery will be easy, but you may just surprise yourself and find yourself with open eyes and an open heart, embracing the season. After all, making it through your first sober holiday is definitely a gift that will keep on giving.