Given the ongoing public health emergency, many experts are now suggesting that we must prepare for a very different holiday season in 2020. Big family gatherings—the kind we either love or hate—are potentially dangerous, especially to the older members of the family or anyone with underlying conditions that might make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
Sobriety and the Holidays
Even if you fall into the camp that generally dreads the holidays, there is a pretty good chance that having to spend the entire holiday season away from your loved ones does not sound all that great to you. If you are in recovery from a substance use disorder, you may wonder if a scaled-down holiday poses a threat to your sobriety. After all, sadness and loneliness can lead to cravings for drugs or alcohol, and a Thanksgiving without the big Thanksgiving gathering may have you feeling less than thankful.
Those feelings are perfectly understandable. But we want to encourage you to enter the holiday season determined to maintain the spirit of thankfulness that the holidays are supposed to inspire. Not only will that make the holidays more joyful, but it will also support your sobriety—and that is a cause for celebration at any time of year.
How a Spirit of Thankfulness Supports Recovery
When you think about your life, are you the kind of person who counts problems or blessings?
You could think of it as two different ways of keeping your internal emotional ledgers. You could spend your time counting up and worrying over the problems and challenges in your life. Or you could spend your time counting up and feeling grateful for the good things in your life. The latter approach is far more likely to help you maintain your sobriety.
So, in the case of this year’s holidays (and really, all through the year), it is much better to focus on your blessings rather than your difficulties. Maybe you can take the time to focus on enjoying immediate family without the distractions of having the extended family over for Thanksgiving. Maybe you can revel in the pleasure of not being forced to watch football or go shopping for holiday deals right after the big meal. Maybe you can just relax and enjoy a few days when you don’t have to work. Whatever small (or big) joys you can bring to the forefront of your mind are worth reflecting upon.
We want to be clear here. We are not suggesting that you should adopt an approach to life that ignores the problems and challenges that arise. As a person in recovery, you already know that challenges are an unavoidable part of life. What we are suggesting, however, is that focusing on gratitude—rather than worry, fear, or regret—is a much better option for safeguarding your hard-won sobriety.
Enacting Gratitude Over the Holidays – Some Ideas
Gratitude is often experienced most profoundly when we turn it into action. Even during this period of social distancing, there are plenty of ways to do that.
- Keep a gratitude journal so that you have a tangible reminder of the things you are thankful for.
- Make a donation to a food pantry, an animal shelter, or other charity to support others who may be struggling during the holiday season.
- Make a call or send a letter, an email, or even a text to someone you have been thinking about but haven’t been in touch with for a while.
Send thank-you notes to the people who have stood by you and are committed to supporting you in recovery.
- Attend 12-Step or other recovery meetings (in a safe and healthy manner) not just to support your own sobriety but to show others that they are not alone over the holidays.
There are plenty of other ways to reflect on and demonstrate your gratitude over the holiday season—and each one can brighten up your life and the lives of those you touch. In the process, you will be keeping temptation and the risk of relapse at bay.
We Are Confident You Will Be Grateful to Be Sober
If you are approaching this holiday season in the grips of a substance use disorder, it is time to get the help you need. At Wooded Glen Recovery Center we offer compassionate, evidence-based, personalized treatment that will help you put drug or alcohol use behind you so that you can start your recovery journey feeling confident. Getting and staying sober is the best gift you can give yourself. It is a gift for which you will definitely be thankful.