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Survive the Holiday Season

From mid-November to mid-January friends, families, loved one’s and colleagues will be sharing in a variety of festivities, celebrations, holidays, work parties and other activities such as holiday vacations, travelling together. It can be fun, or stressful. Joyful or downright difficult. And New Year’s Eve! When most people are laughing and smiling, for folks in recovery and especially new recovery, we need to pay special attention to maintaining emotional balance, and self-care. 

Every year, IRSI publishes its top 10 suggestions for sobriety and recovery through the holidays, and this year is no exception.

What’s different this year? Last year in many countries, most people were in lockdown through the holidays and New Year’s eve. Some of our clients may be celebrating their first “real” holiday season or their first “real” New Year since getting sober. Last year might even be considered a piece of cake since other people couldn’t celebrate as well since many people could not even leave their homes. But with restrictions over we want to make sure our clients are prepared and ready to ask for help if they need and follow some of these other suggestions. 

This year we’ve updated our top 10 list keeping all these factors in mind to share with your clients and their families.

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. Offer to host a holiday or New Year 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 actually helping other people. This is a time of year when others enjoy helping others, even those 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 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. For instance, you can go to a homeless shelter to help feed the homeless, go Christmas carolling at a home for the elderly, offer to walk dogs at an animal shelter or quite simply you can also show up with a good attitude to be with your family. Help them cook, set the table or 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 and 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 on holidays. 

8. Avoid the pity pot.

The most difficult part of holidays might be when you see everyone else with their families, going out of town or being with their kids or partner. Being single or on your own during the holidays can be really hard and  sadness or self pity might just happen when we least expect it to. This is actually really normal and happens to everyone occasionally. Allow yourself to feel the sadness but self-pity for those of us in recovery can be a trigger to relapse. Thank goodness we know that it is best to surround ourselves with others in recovery and have 12-step or other peer based groups we can reach out to any time day or night. The best solution to combating self-pity is being of service. (See number 7 above.)

9. Take time for self-reflection and self-care.

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. We may also use this time to do some personal catching up with that stuff we want to do but are usually too busy to do, such as cleaning out a closet, reading that book you've been meaning to finish, organize your library, change your furniture around. Or finish your 4th step.

10. Count your blessings.

A great time to start the counting your blessings 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, know that you are not alone and do not hesitate to contact us at IRSI.

Wishing you peace and joy in this holiday season.

Blog Post written by:
Evyan Donch