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Whether this time of year fills you with warm tingles or absolute dread, “the holidays” never fail to elicit great emotional charge. Though we are all different in terms of holidays and celebrations, the end of another year (especially this one) can bring about a tsunami of feelings. What’s more, when we experience the holidays in recovery it can all feel very different when we are sober

Embracing the Holidays in Recovery

If the holidays are like an old acquaintance you try to pass on the street without being seen, this could be your year. Strangely enough, a hero has arrived in an unlikely form: a virus. Let’s not underestimate this virus as an ally to get us out of challenging family dynamics. This is an unusual time and sometimes staying home is the safest option. Phone it in, zoom, or FaceTime, and never feel bad about putting your physical and mental health first. If your family tries to guilt you for not coming home, exercise your boundaries and know that you are not alone! Saturday Night Live depicted the trials and tribulations of dealing with family around the holidays. Enjoy this clip from SNL:

For those who adore this season and can’t make it home, grieve it! Yes, this will be a weird year in our memories but before weeping at the idea of spending it alone, remember, you can do this. Start your own traditions. These can never be undervalued. What did you like to do as a kid to celebrate? Do it! Make that hot chocolate with marshmallows, buy yourself the present, and get cozy. Self-care is key. If you are here in Colorado, take a drive or a hike on New Year’s Day and breathe in the peace and beauty of the snow-capped peaks. If you find yourself sliding into a peppermint flavored pity party, call someone! We are all in this together so don’t hesitate to ask for help when you are sad or lonely. You will probably find that you are not as alone as you think. 

Recovery and the Holidays

When it comes to recovery, this time of year can be one of the trickiest hurdles to face. Attending an office party sober may be torture. Though the pandemic may clear most of our holiday event roster, it can still be a tricky time emotionally. The most important thing to remember is that you are a different person now. You’re not that child who spent the holiday in tears. In addition, you are not that person who blacks out before noon. And, finally, you are no longer the person who spends the first day of the new year hungover. Stay present with yourself, smell the winter air, enjoy the lights, and for goodness sake don’t bankrupt yourself by buying everyone a gift. Your living amends as a sober, present, loving friend or family member is the best gift you’re giving to those around you. Most likely, our fear of the holidays (especially if it is your first one in recovery) is far greater than the reality.

T’is the Season: Tuning In 

Being alone during the holidays in recovery can feel daunting. Stay connected—to yourself, to your emotions, and to others, especially those who are also sober. It can be helpful to have an escape plan for any event you attend whether that means you drive separately, have the Uber app ready to go, or have an excuse lined up that you need to go feed your cat. Your well-being comes first. Hence, if seeing certain friends or family members is triggering, set a boundary, or cancel a plan. If you can, express to those around you that doing the holidays sober is tough for you and allow yourself to be supported. Remember, this time will pass. You don’t have to sit in the dark and grieve the entire year in review (though some of us will) on New Year’s Eve. Make new traditions and be gentle with yourself, we’re all only human. 

Image courtesy of Denys Nevozhai via unsplash

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