The Holidays and Wellbeing in Recovery

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

They say that Benjamin Franklin said that.  Well, no matter who said it first, that quote is very right – especially concerning the holidays and staying well in recovery.

We often identify triggering situations with seeing someone actively using.  However, it’s not just the act of using that triggers us.  It can also be the result of using that triggers us.  For example:

“There will be alcohol there.  But alcohol wasn’t my thing – does it matter if I go?”

A using situation can be pretty triggering, no matter what the exact chemical is.  Sometimes the results of other people using can be what triggers us.  We see people with lowered inhibitions.  We see them as being care-free.  Our disease helps us see the only the fun, forget the bad parts, and makes us want that kind of fun – free of consequences.

Regardless of the presence of substances or not, the environment can be triggering.  For example, our family system might be unhealthy or chaotic.  People around us might not understand and support our decision to stay sober.  The environment might bring back difficult memories.

During major holiday seasons, or just before they arrive, it’s common to run into a flurry of resources that talk about how to handle the holiday season.  But isn’t that a little bit late?

What about planning in advance?  What and who should our planning process include?

  • our sponsor
  • counselor
  • getting into the literature
  • connecting to our Higher Power
  • setting boundaries
  • our daily recovery routine and inventory
  • our healthy habits like exercise, eating right, enough rest, and the right amount of water
  • seeking wisdom from old-timers who have what we want

Holidays like Labor Day, the Fourth of July, and Memorial Day are often centered on being outdoors, boating, cooking out, and having a lot of fun in those ways.  Holidays like Thanksgiving often involve family, travel, and really hectic schedules.  Holidays like New Year’s Eve are often associated with all-night-long partying.

Sometimes a holiday can bring in a tender reminder, or feelings of grief.  We can feel like we miss someone or feel lonely.  What can we do?

Each holiday can bring a certain set of challenges but also good opportunities for fun.  It’s important to not just try to eliminate holidays and cut out everything to try to avoid the topic. What do we need to consider to promote our recovery?

What about you, your family, and your traditions?

  • Different people come from different cultures, different values, and different traditions.
  • What are the possible stress points?
  • What are the fun opportunities in your particular holidays?

What do you need to think about in advance to protect your recovery and grow even stronger during your holidays – rather than end up drained or let down?

Well, sometimes it’s good to think about putting in a “recovery deposit.”  Early in the day, do you start your daily program with action for that day?  For example – going to a meeting or calling your sponsor?  That’s putting in a deposit for later in the day.  Later in the day you might need to pull from that recovery account because of a stressful situation you didn’t see coming.

The holidays can be like that.  Plan to deposit gratitude, amends, and daily recovery activity.  Figure out who has what you want in recovery and plan to bring them into your plans.

Put a recovery deposit into your holiday plans!  Have fun.  And plan to have fun!