The holiday season can often be a difficult time for people in early recovery. Overcoming one’s addiction and beginning a journey of recovery is an enlightening, empowering process. However, the journey can often be dangerous to navigate during the typical stress of the holiday season.

Holidays can be hard for those in early recovery for a number of reasons. First, alcohol can be prevalent at gathers during the holiday season and being around family and friends that are engaging in a good time that includes alcohol can be tough for a person in early recovery to deal with. Additionally, the holiday season is typically a stressful time for anyone, much less a person in early recovery and a family that has been affected by their past active addiction. In such stressful situation, families often deal with high tension and although a person in early recovery may be doing well in their recovery, the long-time behaviors of their past active addiction can sometimes become the focus of their families during the holidays. Stories of how the individual’s addiction has impacted past holiday gatherings and caused pain for their loved ones can be brought up, old wounds opened and pain that is still very much real for the family is discussed. This is obviously something that can negatively impact the person in recovery and sometimes be dangerous enough to cause a relapse based on the guilt and shame that occurs. It is understandable that these situations may happen, as their loved ones have been the most hurt during the individual’s active addiction.

For those people in early recovery around the holidays, it is important to have certain things in place to help support themselves and their recovery during this stressful holiday time.

  1. Have a plan in place. First and foremost, it is imperative that the person in early recovery puts in place whatever they need to sustain their recovery during the holidays. This can include a schedule of 12 Step, SMART or other recovery-oriented meetings that they will attend and to make sure to keep a commitment to that schedule. This should also include a list of sober supports that they can call regularly for emotional support. If they are involved in a 12 Step fellowship, keeping in contact with their sponsor is vital. If they are still in a treatment program, make sure to keep in constant contact with their therapist and the treatment center. If a situation is too stressful, the person may need to excuse themselves from it or make a decision to skip it altogether, if the situation is unhealthy and potentially threatening to their recovery.
  2. Bring something to the occasion. One of the mistakes many people in early recovery make it the self-centered perception that the holiday season should be a celebration of their sobriety. Yes, this is extremely important and should be celebrated, but it’s important to remember that their selfish actions in active addiction has caused harm and damage to their loved ones. Their actions all too often made the holidays about them at the expense of their family and friends. Rather than expect the holiday season to be about loved ones congratulating you on your newfound recovery, instead bring an attitude of helpfulness and usefulness to the occasion. Ask how you can be helpful and of service to your family and loved ones. What you can do to improve the festivities and what can you bring to make the experience one that they will enjoy? For too long family and loved ones suffered in the wreckage of the person’s addiction and alcoholism, so now that the person has found recovery, make an effort to make the holidays a happy time for them.
  3. Be open and transparent with your family and loved ones. There is no shame in admitting the stressful holiday season may be difficult for you if you are in early recovery. Vocalize that to your family and friends. Tell them if you are having a hard time. Explain that you know you have caused pain for them and that you would like to make the holiday season better as an active member of the family, but if situations arise that cause difficulties, there is no shame is telling them. Struggling with emotions and situations is not weak, but rather discussing how they are difficult will actually better support your recovery. Perhaps they decide that they won’t serve alcohol this year to make is easier for you? Perhaps they will offer support rather than judgment. Make sure to also voice stressors and difficult feelings to your recovery supports so that they can aid you in getting through difficult times sober, as they have in the past.

Again, there should be no shame or guilt in admitting that perhaps you were a burden to your family during past holidays and that this holiday season may be difficult for you in early recovery. However, the holidays can easily be a wonderful time full of loving family and friends gathering together to celebrate. It is simply important that you show up with an attitude of helpfulness and usefulness, trying to bring something to the occasion and that you have your recovery plan and sober supports in place in case difficult times arise. The good news is if you do these things, the longer you practice them with each passing year, the easier stressful holidays become and the more you become simply another family member enjoying the season with the ones you love.

If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs.

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