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Addiction, Sobriety, Recovery and COVID-19 during the Holidays

The holidays are usually a time for coming together with family, friends, loved ones. From fun festivities through New Years's eve, we are supposed to be surrounded by joy, good cheer and have fun.

But many who are in early recovery -- or even people with a good amount of "sober time" -- this year with potential lock downs and quarantines, we need to take special precautions when it comes to recovery and sobriety.

In an effort to encourage people at any stage of their recovery, we've put together our yearly top 10 list of advice for people either new to recovery or with longer term recovery -- but with added suggestions considering the additional challenges placed on us by COVID-19.

1. Choose Not To Be Alone -- Use the Internet or Phone to stay in touch with others.
This is a time of year where being in a recovery group, like AA, NA or other peer-based groups are a gift. We no longer have to feel alone, for anything or any time of year! Offer to be of extra service by assisting with an online marathon meeting. Ofter to reach out to others on Christmas or New Years -- make it a virtual dinner 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 ashamed or embarrassed but know that by asking for help you are actually 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 or visit the homeless over the holidays. There, you will find kindness, compassion and human connection. You will be in the solution of recovery.

2. Start with a meeting and set the tone for your week
Create a list of online (or in-person) meetings, 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 if possible ask them to pick you up if you are without a car. Try to get to a meeting first or join an online meeting before it starts -- there is usually "the meeting before the meeting." This really helps when your loved ones or family have a hard time understanding addictions and recovery and the emotional challenges that accompany addictions.

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 -- and pausing and or reaching out to another person -- 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 may not encourage your recovery. They might tell you that "just one" isn't going to hurt, or "you're not as fun without some substance..." Recognize them and if possible get away from them. Fast. If you can't get away from them -- maybe you live with them -- reach out to a sober friend or a healthy family member who you know is encouraging and proud of you.

4. Loneliness and Sadness Come and Go
This time of year -- especially this year during COVID-19 -- we may be facing powerful emotions such as loneliness, worry, or grief 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 have provided us with lessons to us that help us grow and mature and become the people we are today. 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, 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. Even a quick walk around the block or putting on your headphones to listen to your top ten songs for recovery (make one before you have to go anywhere -- music is a great resource for feeling better.)

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
If you are with your family -- and even a great family -- sometimes the going gets tough and old habits crop up. Try to show up this holiday season knowing your cup is full enough to be of service to others. Service can take many forms. Try on an attitude of gratitude when 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.  

8. Avoid the pity pot.
Sometimes the first few years might be spent feeling sorry for oneself for not being with a family or in a relationship. Maybe now is the time to sign up to work on a help line like the samaritans or another online community that talks to people in crisis. Concentrating on helping takes the focus off of ourselves and puts us back on  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 might think of this as me-time and begin a meditation practice or read that book you've been wanting to read. Or listen to calming music and practice journal writing. Or some simple time of catching up with that stuff we want to do but are usually too 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 or a loved one in a crisis, know that you are not alone and do not hesitate to call us on WhatsApp +39-342-812-7620 or write to at Evyan@InternationalRecovery.net

Wishing you peace and joy in this holidays season.

Blog Post written by:
Evyan Donch