Tips To Stay Sober Over Your First Holiday Season
The winter holidays are approaching and for many it’s always a highlight of the year. It’s a time for family, celebrations, gift giving and reflecting as we close out the year. As someone in recovery for 5 years I’ve been able to enjoy this season wholeheartedly but it wasn’t always that way. I spent my first holiday season in recovery away from my family and it wasn’t easy leading up to it. When those days came and went, however, I ended up having a great time because of the actions I had taken. If it weren’t for preparation and talking to others during those days I don’t know if I would of made it. Let’s talk about what you can do to make your first sober holiday season a great one.
Put Things In Perspective
Life can move fast when we are finally sober and in tune with the world. You know what’s even faster? Our thoughts. My mind races through 20 different things a minute, if you really stop and just review what you thought about the past ten minutes it’s really quite fascinating. Our minds are moving so fast all day and night, sometimes you need to take a deep breath and actively slow your thoughts down.
I was about 5 months sober for my first Christmas season. As I said I wasn’t near my family and I would think about it incessantly. That was until I sat down and talked to somebody and told them how I was feeling. Like how I was really feeling. It’s one of the most valuable tools we can have in recovery, being completely transparent with someone. It has saved me many times to this day. I remember sitting down with my sponsor at the time and he painted a very simple portrait for me.
He told me that even though I'm away from my family this Christmas and it’s not how I wanted things to look, I was doing things now that will pay off big time in the big picture. Meaning, me spending Christmas alone (of course I wasn’t really alone) this year meant having a lifetime of amazing holidays in the future. That really hit me hard, it brought me back to what I was really trying to do, I was trying to build a life and create something special. I wanted the rest of my life to be a good one, and I was taking sacrifices in the present to assure that.
Let that sink in.
I promise you, without a doubt, you are not the only one struggling through their first holiday season in recovery. A terrible habit I had early on in recovery was isolating. I loved the comfort of sitting alone and sulking. It’s a terribly dangerous habit and can have some dire consequences. Me sitting alone all day with just my thoughts can lead to anything happening. Why do we isolate? It’s comfortable, if we are alone, nothing to worry about and nobody we have to appear happy to. Comfort is definitely not a good thing in recovery for the most part. When we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations that is where we face the most growth.
Find peers who you have grown friendships with and see what they are doing over the holidays, chances are you will find some people who are stuck away from everyone just like you! Plan a day with them, it doesn’t have to be anything crazy. As far as the fellowships like NA or AA there is most likely an Alcathon near you. Alcathons are locations for meetings that run 24 hours straight, sometimes more during a holiday. It gives a place for anyone struggling a place to go no matter what time it is. My treatment center had a special event for the alumni the day before Christmas for anyone who was around and it was a huge turnout!
I don’t know about you, but I had some miserable holidays. Even if I was present for my family I wasn’t all there and it would always be obvious to everyone involved. There are silver linings in almost anything that occurs in our life, surely you can find some when you are away from your loved ones come this holiday.
Sometimes I need to just be grateful that I am on the right track and doing what i’m supposed to when all else fails. As corny as it sounds, write down what you are grateful for when self-pity or sadness starts to rear its ugly head.
This holiday season will be what you make it. Looking back, I would waste so much time dreading the actual day of Christmas where I was stuck in Florida away from my family but when the day finally came, it was just another day and I inherently knew I could make it a good day or bad day. My first Christmas sober I spent at meetings and then went out with a few friends to a Denny’s. Was it the best holiday every? No, but it was surely better than most.
Remember, you are building a life right now so you can enjoy the rest of the holidays in the future the way you want to. Find solace in the fact that you can finally make that a possibility rather than wasting time thinking about what you don’t have right now and I promise you, you will get through this with flying colors.