For many people, the holiday season is a time for celebration with friends and family, and hopefully the same is true for you. For many in recovery, however, there is a tremendous amount of anxiety at this time of year because the festive season tends to be rife with temptation in the form of alcohol and drugs. During the holidays, especially around New Year’s Eve, it’s perfectly acceptable to ‘tie one on’, and the social leeway granted to excessive drinking and drugging at parties can be difficult for a person in recovery to handle. After all, no one knew how to party better than we did…and everyone is doing it!
Unfortunately, we know all too well the shame, regret and despair that used to accompany our holiday binges. It may seem like everyone is having a great time, but you are the one who has to look at yourself in the mirror the day – or the week – after.
The good news for people who wish to maintain their recovery (and their self-esteem, self-respect, jobs, bank accounts, families etc.) over the holidays, is that it is possible to refrain from drinking or using, and it can be fun, too! The trick is to roll with the punches and be prepared. Here are some tips to keep the holidays fresh, and have fun.
- Make a plan. Don’t just accept every party invite automatically; when friends make plans, don’t reply for 24 hours. During that time, ask yourself how you really feel about attending that party or social gathering. Write down all your feelings and fears around it. Consult with a sponsor or trusted friend. We folk in recovery tend to be people of extremes, so maybe you need to open your heart to different people and experiences to stave off your usual hibernation/isolation over the holidays …or maybe you’re taking on too much and risking emotional burnout.
- Structure your time. This includes not waiting till the last minute to make plans (you could wind up stuck at home alone, or with people you aren’t comfortable with) and limiting the amount of time spent in stressful family situations or with people whose definition of ‘Christmas party’ includes drinking excessively. While you might feel guilty for limiting the time you spend with ‘toxic’ people or refusing invitations altogether, recognize that your recovery must come first, and your happiness matters, too.
- Select multiple activities. If you’re off work, the temptation might be to carve out a spot on the couch, binge-watch Netflix and not move for a week, but winter/holiday activities like sledding, skating, movies (at a theatre!), baking cookies, decorating, etc. are all wonderful ways to relax and have fun. If you don’t have kids but want to act like one, join a friend, relative or neighbour and help them build a snow fort. Go to the mall and listen to the holiday music, look at the lights, make a donation to a mall Santa and generally take in the delights of the holidays. All these activities keep away the boredom and guilt that can come with doing absolutely nothing for long stretches of time.
- Beef up your step work. Haven’t had time to do a long guided meditation in weeks? Procrastinating making those last amends, reading recovery books or writing a cleansing inventory? Now you have the time for self-reflection, so get ‘er done and enjoy the holidays with a clean conscience.
- Find a meeting. Even if you’re travelling, there are meetings everywhere; plan in advance, and if you can’t get someone to go with you, go anyway and meet new people who are facing the same challenges as you are! Sharing your honest feelings around the holidays, even negative ones like loneliness, fear of relapse, shock of returning to your hometown etc., will lessen those feelings and allow you to reap the benefits of helpful advice.
Remember…if you’re on shaky ground, reach out and call someone else in recovery, or use social media to connect with your support system. Ask a Higher Power for help, write about your feelings, use the tools of recovery to get you through. You will get through – and you will feel amazing in January!
Other great ways to have fun and stay sober during the holidays, have a spiritual awakening and find peace:
Attend your Renascent Alumni meetings, join the alumni committee, or become a contact. Our Alumni are part of the Renascent Family! We love to connect with you and you are always welcome.
Happy Holidays and all the best for a sober, fulfilling, wonderful New Year.