The holiday season can bring out mixed emotions. For many of us, this time of year shines an abrupt spotlight on sensitive topics in our personal lives, provoking past, familiar thoughts from ruined holidays, broken families, or messy relationships. Entertaining and entering crowded rooms can already urge feelings of anxiety. Layering on the experience of being an addict in recovery amplifies those emotions—especially for someone who has recently gone through addiction treatment. But in the midst of the holiday gatherings, the peace of sobriety can break through the stress. Consider these thoughts on finding a sense of peace during this time of year.
Healing from past relationships
The holidays tend to present times for reconnecting with loved ones, whether distant or close. As you find yourself visiting with relatives and friends, perhaps certain relationships from your past left wounds that haven’t healed. Whether or not it’s appropriate to reach out to those people, consider the areas where forgiveness is needed. While you might think you’ve moved on from a painful relationship, those unexpected reminders and memories often surface around the holidays. Forgiving someone isn’t easy, but you will achieve more meaningful healing by letting go of resentment.
Protecting your time
Take the time to reflect on your recovery and reevaluate where you want to be. Do you remember the chaos of your past substance abuse? Even though staying sober is challenging, recognize the calmness, clarity, and relief that comes with being free from those former habits and dependencies.
Since this time of year can be stressful, be extra mindful of how you are managing stress. Mismanaged stress can easily set the stage for relapse. Even though the holidays create full schedules, avoid sacrificing the activities that help you give you strength and peace, such as therapy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and attending support groups or counseling. While your daily routine might be experiencing interruptions, the things that keep you physically and mentally strong are the wrong things to cancel. With emotions already running high from seeing family and being busy, don’t neglect the moments that help you relax and keep you in balance. Self-care is important, regardless of how busy you are.
Preparing for occasions
As you choose what events you attend, give yourself permission to not go to everything. Watch for high-risk situations where you may be surrounded by relapse triggers. As you create healthier habits in sobriety, best practice is to avoid testing your limits. If you know you’ll be surrounded by alcohol or other substances at a party, don’t feel guilted into attending. You have the choice to decide what environments you enter. If a certain event makes you nervous or anxious, opting out may be the best decision. People who support you and want what’s best for you will understand your caution and respect the reasons why some events aren’t worth the risk.
Keep in mind that skipping some events doesn’t mean you should be deprived of celebrating. Recovery is always easier when people focus on replacing—not just eliminating. Treat this season as a time to start new traditions. Avoid dwelling on the things you aren’t doing—like drinking or using. Direct your attention to what you are doing instead, such as traveling, spending time outside, or trying a new sport or hobby.
Find out more ways to start healthy habits and new traditions.