Top 10 Tips to Make the Holiday Season Even More Joyful in Recovery!

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The holiday season is a time of joy and a chance to connect with friends and family that we may not get to see as often as we’d like. However, for those in recovery, it can also be a tricky time of year because our culture is heavily steeped in the tradition of consuming alcoholic beverages at parties and celebrations. Family gatherings can also be challenging as we are in closer proximity to more family members than usual and all of the complicated relationships that this entails.

Over the years, people have shared many tactics and bits of advice with me that can make the holiday season a bit easier to enjoy as a person in recovery.  Here, in the spirit of holiday giving, I’d like to share a few with you!

  1. Simply being aware that it is normal to feel vulnerable during the holiday season is your greatest defense. If you anticipate this as typical, you will be better equipped to handle these situations more effectively and with less anxiety.
  2. Attend holiday parties and events with a friend who also doesn’t drink alcohol. This could be a friend who is in recovery or simply a friend who chooses not to drink.
  3. Bring some of your favorite non-alcoholic beverages as a gift or contribution for the host of the party. You’ll be practicing proper manners and smart recovery at the same time!
  4. You might also choose to attend a party where you know alcohol will not be  served, such as a recovery-community party. Many 12-Step recovery groups have special parties and events planned specifically because the holiday season can be challenging. You may also find such events at your place of worship.
  5. If you are feeling particularly vulnerable or your anxiety level is higher than usual, remember that you are not obligated to attend any party. You can respectfully decline the invitation with a simple phone call to let the host know that you are “not feeling up to a party”, but that you truly appreciate the invitation.  Fabricated and elaborate excuses are not necessary. Honor yourself with simple honesty!
  6. Always remember that you are not required to stay for the entire length of a party; you may excuse yourself early if you begin to feel somewhat uncomfortable for any reason. For such reasons, you may want to plan ahead by driving yourself in your own car in case you want to leave early.  If you leave feeling somewhat overwhelmed, always call a trusted friend or your 12-Step sponsor to talk about your feelings; it is extremely important to avoid isolating yourself during these times.
  7. Attend a 12-step meeting before you head out to the party or family gathering. This will place you a stronger and healthier state of mind. If you are unable to attend a meeting before the event, sometimes making plans to attend a meeting afterward has a similar calming effect and will fortify your resolve.  In either case, set your schedule a few days in advance.
  8. If you feel overwhelmed by the number of people in attendance, try stepping outside on the patio or balcony for a breath of fresh air. Sometimes this simple act will shift your entire mood and disposition, and you might be able to stay and enjoy the party longer.
  9. As always, prayer and meditation can make any difficult situation more manageable.  Employ these practices before heading out to any holiday festivity. You will enjoy a healthier and more peaceful state of mind if you center your thoughts first.
  10. Invite friends or family members to volunteer or engage in service work with you during the holiday season. In this way, you will be socializing with others outside of the typical party atmosphere, but will still be connecting with those you care about in healthy and meaningful ways.

These are just a few of the tried and true methods for people in recovery to employ during the holiday season. In all cases, it is vital to remember that your recovery and well-being must always come first – everything else will fall into place. We welcome your thoughts and ideas, and we wish you a wonderful holiday season full of joy, health, and peace!

Shawn Webb-Young

Recovery Program Coordinator