How to Have an Enjoyable Holiday Season Without Losing Your Mind or Sobriety
Ah, the holidays. It’s a loaded time for most, love it or hate it. This time of year brings high expectations, chaotic schedules, and memories of holidays past—both good and bad. But for those of us in recovery, this time of year can present additional challenges—boozy holiday parties, family drama, and financial pressures are all recipes for stress. Here, we offer some tips on how to ride the holiday wave with maximum peace and sobriety intact.
Make Recovery a Priority
It’s easy to let recovery activities fall by the wayside when we get busy. During the holidays, keeping connected to your support network is vital for sanity. 12 step-meetings or support groups are excellent venues for learning new ways to deal with uncomfortable emotions or times of high stress. The tools they share offer us a path to real and lasting freedom from our discomfort with life itself. Also, being surrounded by people with similar experiences, who have gotten to the other side, gives us an invaluable sense of connection and comfort. Sharing what you are going through and reaching out to others lessens the sense of isolation and panic, and steadies us enough to keep us on the path for another day.
Find Some Gratitude
Gratitude can be downright magical for improving your level of satisfaction with life. More than just a perspective, practicing gratitude is linked to improved physical health and mental well-being. It’s associated with better sleep, more energy, less depression, and possibly even a lower risk of heart disease. Even better – gratitude doesn’t need to be big. It’s not about having the perfect holiday or the perfect family. Amazingly, research has shown that gratitude is just as potent when it applies to small things in our daily lives. Of course, this has big implications for those in recovery—especially those just starting out. Try finding gratitude for the little things this holiday season; some pretty lights, a decent cup of coffee, or an extra day off work. We’d put our money down on its effectiveness!
Get into Service
Helping others is a front-line defense when times are tough. It distracts us from ourselves, and we often return to our problems with a fresh perspective and a renewed spirit. Helping other alcoholics or addicts is a great place to start, and seldom fails to give an emotional boost. Also, during the holiday season, many social service agencies and non-profits offer volunteer opportunities. Check online for opportunities in your area. It also works to start small – a kind word of thanks to a cashier, letting someone into your lane while driving, or smiling at strangers also count. These are all good practices, and remind us that the world is bigger than us.
Show Up and Get Connected
For some of us, the most stressful part of the holiday season is family and friends. Especially to those newer in recovery, many of these relationships are in a state of disrepair. Instead of self-pity, or outright avoiding people, we can try practicing tolerance and showing up as best we can, even to people that press our buttons. It can be healing to participate, so try pitching in with dishes or cooking, or bringing a few small gifts to holiday gatherings. Often, these little gestures are where healing begins in families. If you’re not planning on spending the holidays with family or friends, try getting to a meeting or hooking up with people in recovery. There is no reason to stay home alone and feel isolated when there are real options for connection out there!
Lower Your Expectations
No matter the season, this is a pro-tip. It may sound like a bit of a downer, but much of our disappointment in life is driven by sky-high expectations. After all, holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year are all just days on the calendar. Instead of demanding they deliver deep connection and transcendental joy, try keeping it simpler. When your expectations are realistic, they are more likely to be satisfied, and you are less likely to experience feelings of disappointment or resentment. So maybe your significant other doesn’t give you that big gift you’ve been hinting at—try finding some gratitude for the fact that they are in your life (see tip #2!).
A final word—when we are re-building sober lives, each day brings a new opportunity for a fresh experience. Try doing something different this year, and see if it doesn’t add a little joy to your holiday season!
At Recovery Syndicate, we are here to serve you throughout the holiday season and long after. Get in touch if you or someone you know is ready for a change.