The holidays are a special time. For most, it’s a time when we can look forward to that we can celebrate with loved ones and family; a time to give gifts, tell stories, cook and eat great food, and spread joy to others. However, in sobriety, the holidays can be daunting. Perhaps this is the first holiday you spend sober. Maybe you even have a relationship with some of your family members that’s difficult to navigate. For some, maybe you don’t have much family to celebrate with, but you have friends, other loved ones, or your “chosen” family you’d like to share your time with during the holiday season. These relationships are just as important to maintain and nurture. Regardless, you might be walking into a holiday celebration with family members or loved ones with high expectations of you and your recovery process. This is a tall order, and often, these expectations aren’t the most realistic, especially when you’re looking to not only survive the holidays but enjoy your holiday season as well.
To steal some of the words of Tim Bambara, if you’ve ever seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (or any of the other National Lampoons movies, for that matter), you know the recurring story of Clark Griswold. Everything that could go wrong during this family holiday, did go wrong. Why? Because the family’s expectations of him, and his expectations of himself, were far too high and unrealistic. Did it make for good comedy for us as viewers? Yes. But the reality is, for those in recovery, these high holiday expectations may be unattainable and can set recovering individuals up for significant failure and risk to their recovery process.
Moreover, holidays are a revolving door for the use of alcohol and other substances. We often celebrate weddings, birthdays, Christmas, New Years, and other occasions with a drink (or several). These traditions create a challenge for those who are working to maintain their sobriety. Seeing your loved ones drinking or partying can be triggering. Because of this, it’s important to be vigilant and not let your guard down. But beyond that, it might be time to change how you interact with your holidays going forward. Changing the pattern of use is changing the ritual, and sometimes changing how different life events and holidays are celebrated as you move through recovery.
Throughout the holiday season, there are a number of things you can do in order to shake things up and keep the joy in your holiday celebrations. Here are just a few!
We hope that you have a safe and happy holiday. If you need support during this holiday season, please reach out to us at 540-535-1111.