The holidays are a time for coming together with family, friends, loved ones. And festivities will abound — work parties, social gatherings, and then there’s New Year’s Eve! Sounds like a lot of fun for most, but for those in recovery holidays can be very difficult and challenging. This is especially true for people in their first year of recovery and their first Christmas or New Year’s eve sober can be incredibly wonderful or incredibly hard! So here is a top 10 list of advice for people either new to recovery, or even us old-timers. We too sometimes need to be reminded.
1. Choose Not To Be Alone
This is a time of year where being in a recovery group, like AA or NA is a gift. We no longer have to be alone, for anything or any time of year! Offer to be of extra service. Ofter to host a Christmas or New Years party. If you have no family to be with -- especially if you are overseas -- then choose to be with friends, especially friends in recovery, or friends from church or school. Tell people you have no family. Ask for help without feeling sorry for yourself but knowing that by asking for help you are acutally helping other people. This is a time of year when others enjoy helping others, even others not in recovery.
If you feel like you have no friends then go down to a soup kitchen and serve food to the homeless over the holidays. There, you will find kindness, compassion and human connection. You will be in the solution of addiction.
2. Start with a meeting and set the tone for your week
Get to meetings, even every day. And if you are going home or traveling anywhere, find out where meetings are before you travel. Contact people in the town you are going to and tell them when you arrive, and ask them to pick you up if you are without a car. And get to a meeting first as soon as you arrive. Do this first before you get pulled into the energies of family or whomever you are with.
3. Recognize and Confront the Saboteur
Be aware of the mind’s or ego’s tendency to sabotage your efforts. Your mind may be
working overtime to get you to break your recovery and sobriety. During the holidays this is especially true. So simply bringing awareness to this tendency returns you to presence. Nothing more is needed. Once aware of it, it will lose its power as long as you remain conscious. There are also saboteurs in the forms of friends and family. People you may have in the past, or past holidays “used” with. Recognize them and if possible get away from them. Fast. You don’t have to stay at a party that may be dangerous to your sobriety. You can leave. Remember it is your life you are saving.
4. Loneliness and Sadness Come and Go
This time of year brings us face to face with powerful emotions as we may remember past holidays we have spent with loved ones we have lost, or friends we used to “party” with, or relationships that may have ended due to our addictions or other reasons. It is good to remember how much people actually mean to us and that the relationships we have had, have been important and lessons to us that help us grow.
And in sobriety we have the opportunity to share our feelings and by sharing, we can shift the loneliness and sadness. If we share our feelings with other loved ones, with other people in recovery, with our sponsor, we find that the feelings dissipate. If we connect with our local 12-Step meeting, church group, synagogue, yoga community or meditation group, we can find the connection we need.
5. Take Breaks
If things get uncomfortable for you, go to a meeting or yoga class, take a walk or a run or call up a friend in recovery, other trusted friend or sponsor. You do not have to sit in an uncomfortable situation. You can always just take a break. And you can always leave.
6. No Need to Fit in or Say Yes when you mean No!
Resist the temptation to fall back into old patterns with family or friends that no
longer serve the “you” that you have become. At the same time, we must resist the temptation of trying to seek approval for who we’ve grown into. Often, people will resent this or not see you in the same light you see yourself. This can bring up big-time resentment and leave your holidays feeling like an ordeal to get through. When offered drinks, even "just a little bit" to ring in the New Year, a firm No with a kind smile is your way of saying, I am protecting my sobriety for me and my future!
7. Be in the Attitude of Service
Show up this holiday season knowing your cup is full enough to be of service to
others. Service can take many forms. You can feed the homeless, of course. And you
can also show up with a good attitude to be with your family. Help them cook, clean
up. Be present as much as you can. Ask them how they are doing and practice being
a great listener. You will soon find that you have contentment – the freedom from
wanting or needing anything. For your 12-step group, bake cookies and take them to a meeting. Offer to open a meeting for someone going out of town or going for the holidays.
8. Avoid the pity pot.
I recall my first few years were spent feeling sorry for myself for not being with my family. I saw everyone else with their families, going out of town or being with their kids. And instead I was all alone. AND I threw my first party and helped other newer members of my 12-step group. Concentrating on helping them took the focus off of me and put me back on my track of serenity.
9. A time of self-reflection
Spending alone time can be a good thing too. We don’t have to think of it as isolating if in fact we are doing some meditation and contemplation. Or some simple time of catching up with that stuff we want to do but are usually to busy to do, such as clean out a closet (and donate the old clothes to charity, or sell it at a market!). Read that book you keep falling asleep with because your work schedule is so busy. Work on your 4th Step (finally!). Or read some 12-step literature, such as Living Sober.
10. Count your blessings
A great time to start the counting your blessings -- and yes, I do mean, putting them down on paper -- is the start of the New Year! Buy yourself a beautiful diary or journal and wake up each morning and make that list! It will help to bring your awareness back to the present of all the good things in your life, and shift your Holiday Blues to Jingle Bells Rock!
And lastly, if you are finding yourself in a crisis, know that you are not alone and do not hesitate to call us at La Promessa to speak to a Counselor or Therapist right away.
Wishing you peace and joy in this holidays season.