For many individuals in recovery the holidays can be a period of emotional highs and lows. Loneliness, anxiety, happiness and sadness are all feelings that present themselves, sometimes experience in startling succession. At times the holiday blues can be a struggle for people in early recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction and even disordered eating. The good news is this experience can be reremedied by planning ahead, engaging in a recovery community and asking for help.
Why do the blues hit during this otherwise festive season? Doing too much or too little and being separated from loved ones at this special time can lead to sadness during the holiday season. Many recovering people associate the holidays with memories of isolation, substance use, mood-altering tendencies, negative consequences and unhealthy behaviours that resulted in relationship problems or great personal losses.
Whether you’re in recovery or not, developing a healthy plan to help prevent the blues is important, one that will allow you to acknowledge and process these unpleasant memories before they threaten your holiday experience. Your plan should include diligent self-care, enhanced support from others and healthy ways to celebrate. Here are a few suggestions to achieve a happy, joyous and free sober holiday season:
Good Self Care – Self-care is vital to your recovery. Remember to slow down. Take some quiet time each day and work on an attitude of gratitude. Plan relaxation and mediation into your day, even for a few minutes, no matter how busy you are. Relax your standards and reduce overwhelming demands and responsibilities. Set healthy boundaries, and practice saying no in a way that is comfortable for you. Let others help you realize your personal limits.
Access Your Support System – Holidays are a good time to reach out more frequently to your counsellor or Cedars Continuing Care Provider, sponsor, spiritual advisor, support group and recovery community. If you are a member of the Cedars Alumni network we strongly encourage you to connect with peers in your local area. There are many Cedars Alumni living a life of recovery in Victoria, BC Nanaimo, BC Vancouver, BC Edmonton, AB Calgary, AB and all across the country.
Find New Ways To Celebrate – Create some new symbols and rituals that will help redefine a joyful and sober holiday season. You might host a holiday gathering for recovering friends and their loved ones or attend special celebrations hosted by a 12 Step Group. Avoid isolation and spend time with people whose company you enjoy free of substances. Don’t expose yourself to unnecessary temptations, such as gathering where alcohol or drugs is the centre of entertainment.
Release Your Resentments & Expectations – Expectations are often described as premeditated resentments. Resentments are like allowing a person, place, or thing you dislike to live in your head, rent-free. Resentments can be amplified during the holiday season and can be disastrous for anyone, especially for those recovering from addictions. Although it can be difficult to discover the resentments we might be holding onto, this discovery creates an opportunity for us to ask for the support of a sponsor or recovery network.
Holidays can also be a good time to evaluate your spirituality and find a personal way to draw support from the spirit of the season. In recovery we can create new holiday traditions, return the holidays to a spiritual base, and experience the power of being and giving. Recovery is serious work, but it is also important to have fun. Take from the holiday season what is important for you and your recovery from addiction, and leave the rest.