Dealing With the Holidays When New to Recovery

Season Can Be Dangerous in Early Sobriety

Family Playing Football
Celebrate Life During the Holidays. © Getty Images

The following article about dealing with the holidays was written by Gregg C., a counselor with the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, West Indies.

Dangerous Times for the Newly Sober

The holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's) can be a time of great joy and celebration, or a time of great pain, sorrow and depression. These can be particularly dangerous times for people who are in recovery, especially those in early recovery.

Drinking and using substances were ways that we celebrated the joy, or medicated the pain. What the holidays mean to us and how we participate in them might help us to remain clean and sober.

An Essential Part of Recovery

Thanksgiving has its roots in the end of the growing season, where people would gather what they grew and take stock of their harvest. In the United States, we think about the Indians and early settlers, sharing their food with each other.

Thanksgiving is usually a time when we get together with family and friends, to share our food and company with each other. This is not any different than what we learn in recovery. We take stock of what we have and are grateful for it. Remember, "A grateful heart will never drink." We then share what we have with others. This is an essential part of recovery.

Celebrate Life!

Christmas seems to be the combination of a number of beliefs and rituals adopted from many people. However, most people, at least of Christian beliefs, celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. He was someone who wrestled with his spirituality and humanity. Sound familiar?

When we were drinking or drugging, we were moving quickly towards death and were engaged in destruction. Christmas can be a celebration of life and creation instead. We celebrate life, a birth, on Christmas. We can learn the rewards of embracing our spirituality and humanity.

Letting Go of the Past

New Year's is a letting go of the past year and embracing the new one. It is depicted, sometimes in a comical way, as Father Time handing the baton of a new year to a young baby. In a way, isn't this what recovery is? Our old addicted life handing the reigns over to our new recovering self? A common practice around this time is New Year's resolutions.

Of course, most of these are broken in a short period of time. However, for alcoholics and addicts, to break our resolution to remain clean and sober is to die. And that is the good news. We usually live a life of destruction until that happens. Let's make that resolution to remain clean and sober, and to do what is necessary to achieve that.

Ask For Help

There are many specific strategies or "tools" to increase our ability to remain sober and clean through the holidays. Ask your sponsor or others in recovery how they do it. Get support from your family and friends. Tell them that recovery is important and you need their help. There are a number of books or articles that contain helpful hints.

The Internet is a great resource for finding suggestions or people that can support you during the holidays. Try helping someone else in need. As they say in the 12-step programs, "Don't drink or drug, go to meetings, ask for help." KISS (Keep It Simply Spiritual).

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