Home for the holidays
Going home for the holidays can be stressful enough without the pressure of also being in recovery. You are re-introduced to people you have known for years, or your whole life, who likely have the ability to get under your skin even without the subject of addiction in the equation.
There are a lot of situations that may elicit a spiral of emotions, especially if you are from a family of drinkers, or if you expect to be confronted with those who maybe don’t understand your journey, or maybe even people who harbor resentments against you from your drinking or using days. Even just the environment of being home with your family and friends can trigger emotions of your past.
So this year, if you’re headed home for your first sober holiday, or have spent years in recovery, cultivate new traditions and a feeling of serenity by remembering some of these helpful tips.
Create New Traditions
The sensations of being home – the smells, the décor, the people – can activate a flood of emotions, both good and bad, for anyone. It’s normal to feel stressed. If you experience this, or expect to, try and start a new holiday tradition that will empower your life change. Invite other members of your recovery circle to a special pre-holiday gathering, or do the same with a group of friends who you can reminisce around without drinking or using. Beginning new traditions that make you feel comfortable and happy will help to create new memories to look forward to for future holidays.
Be of Love & Service
Nothing will take away your spiritual growth quicker than acting out on your expectations of other’s or their negativity. If you’ve lived away for some time, they may not know what to expect. Prove them all wrong and leave the holiday feeling empowered and with a great sense of gratitude by being of love and service. Offer to help when help is needed. Answer questions they may have or share in the joys of your sobriety. Time and open communication has the remarkable power of helping to change relationships and perceptions. If you’re working an honest program and living in the principles of the 12 steps, your loved ones will gradually let go of negative perceptions and see the authentic, and improved you.
Empathize With Your Family
Relatives can be more difficult than anything to deal with when you’re in recovery, as long-term familial relationships often have naturally born tensions, plus your family members are more likely to have known your behaviors, or have felt the consequences of your actions when you were using. Remember it will take your family longer to recognize and accept your growth. It’s important to empathize with how they’re feeling too, and give them the time and space necessary to see your growth.
Addressing Your Recovery
Many of us have experienced stinging memories of holidays gone by, when we were less than cheerful to be around, or perhaps missed the holidays altogether because of our lifestyle. So deciding to get sober may not be something you readily want to talk about, especially with family and close friends who have known you only during your addiction. Remember that you don’t have to be on the defensive, shut down, or explain your whole story either. Simply saying that you don’t drink any longer is enough to relieve yourself from the built up tension that may have accumulated. Often it is better to be upfront, and authentic about where you are at than to try and talk around the issue.
Don’t feel obligated to explain your journey. Compassionate friends and family members will accept your explanation, whatever it may be as long as it comes from a place of sincerity. Those who do not understand your journey are not entitled to an explanation – you are not required to deliver that. Remember, in this circumstance, now being sober and working a program of recovery, you have your own set of choices. If certain people, situations or conversations are making you feel anxious, then it’s an indicator to find a little quiet space. Go for a walk, maybe with a family member you can talk to. This will help to dissolve the stress of the situation.
This may also be a time you see those who were on your 4th step. If you never made a proper amends, there is no greater feeling than to take a moment and simply say, “If there is anything I have done in the past to hurt you, or to make you feel uncomfortable, I want to take this moment to apologize.” Believe it or not, this simple statement has the power to absolve you of the guilt or resentment both you and the other harbor for one another. They will see, if you are working a solid program of recovery, that your change in character and growth is real.
Dealing with Drinkers
It’s more than likely that there will be drinking at holiday gatherings. Even if the great obsession of drinking has lifted, these occasions may still rattle you. If you recognize that you’re feeling anxious around drinking, reel your emotions back in by leaving the conversation, taking a walk or hanging out with others who are not drinking.
Remember Your Tools
It’s easy when we are around family members and those we have known most of our lives to be easily coerced into arguing or acting out. These are temperaments you have more than likely worked on suppressing in your sobriety. Don’t let old behaviors, and personalities drag you to a point of acting in a way that does not coexist with your program. Instead, utilize the tools you’ve embraced in recovery to help get you back to a comfortable place.
Plan to visit at least 1 meeting while you’re away. If you’re feeling anxious about visiting a meeting too close to home, perhaps consider one a few towns away. Finding local support is an incredible confidence booster for the occasion, and will help for future holidays. Also, always keep your sponsor in close proximity with a quick phone call once a day. Even leaving a message is empowering enough to start the day confidently. Plan your stay with a few occasions, like visiting friends for coffee or going on a shopping or to a movie. These non-threatening activities are the perfect kinds of gatherings and offer time to catch up.. Also, if you’re active, take the time to exercise: go on a run, visit the gym or take a yoga class. This is not just a time to increase your endorphins, it will help give you head space to meditate and also fill your schedule so you eliminate idle time while away.
Think of your homecoming for the holidays as an opportunity, not an obligation. Letting the fear take over your serenity will limit the growth potential of this moment. Envision leaving the holiday weekend with a sense of accomplishment and pride knowing that you used your program to squash the stress of the occasion. This is one of the joys of recovery, when we can arrive to the occasion being our best selves, and affect the outcome. You cannot control the actions, thoughts or emotions of others, but you can direct their perceptions in order to build a new bridge connecting your loved ones to your new self.