For most people, the weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year are a special time of joy and celebration. Yet, it can be an extremely difficult and stressful time for those who are just beginning to recover from addiction to alcohol and drugs. Spending the holidays in a shelter or residential recovery program is hard.
Here’s a few simple thoughts that can make the experience a little more tolerable
A. Remember the spiritual significance of the holidays – This time of year is a major commercial event for America’s retailers. It is also a time for special celebrations of family and goodwill. Still, we must remember that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. Above all else, we are celebrating God’s sending of His only Son to be our Savior and Redeemer. Keeping Christmas as a spiritual celebration puts all of our other expectations for the holiday season in proper perspective.
B. Don’t isolate – The holidays can be the loneliest time of the year for the recovering addict. On one hand, we are reminded of all the relationships we’ve messed up. Some will spend Christmas haunted by memories loved ones and friends they’ve alienated with destructive and manipulative behavior. We know, too, if we want to keep our sobriety, we must avoid people who are still using alcohol and drugs. What’s the solution? Take advantage of the new sober acquaintances God has brought your way. Reach out to those around you and use this holiday season s as a special opportunity to get to know them better.
C. Use the holidays as a special opportunity for making amends – Instead of dwelling on the failed relationships of your life, make a list of those people and consider ways to reconnect with them. While it is not always possible to make amends to all of them, there are probably a few of them, especially family members. Chance are some of them who would consider hearing from you a special gift this holiday season. Talk to a counselor or sponsor about this and get their input on taking this important step in your recovery process.
D. Give gifts from the heart – It’s easy to feel a load of guilt and shame about not having resources to give presents and other tokens of love to those around you. There are other types of “gifts” that can just as meaningful: a simple card (even homemade) , a phone call or visit, lending a helping hand with a special project. There is a virtually unlimited number of ways to show people around you that you care that don’t require a lot of cash. Be creative.
E. Share your feelings – The holidays can bring back a host of confusing feelings and memories. Sometimes we’re tempted to dwell on “good times” that involved drinking and drug use. For some, this time of year provokes painful childhood memories if we grew up in a troubled home. Others experience loads of stress, disappointment, and loneliness during the holidays. The worst thing to do is to keep all these feelings bottled up inside. Find trusted sober friends and support groups where you can share what is going on within you. This is a sure fire way to keep them in perspective and work through all these emotions in constructive and healthy ways.
F. Find healthy ways to celebrate the season – For some of us, it’s hard to imagine a Christmas or New Year’s Eve without alcohol and drugs. But, for newly sober people, this time of year can be a chance to rediscover how to have fun without mind-altering chemicals. Take a few moments to find out what is happening in the church and what other Christian and sobriety-based events are happening in your community – and participate in them!
G. Have realistic expectations – Most post-holiday disappointments are the result of expecting too much. Keeping Christmas as primarily a spiritual celebration also keeps our expectation in reality, too. We may find this holiday season is not the exciting and joyous experience others seem to make it out to be. Maybe no one seemed to have reached out to you in any special way. Maybe we did not handle all the stress of the holidays as we would have liked to. So what? Maybe making it through the holidays without using drugs or alcohol was the most significant thing we did. Yet, this, in itself, is a major accomplishment.