This is such a special season of the year for many people – a time to get together with family and friends, a time of sharing, caring, and celebrating. Many families and friendships are deeply rooted in tradition and ritual. And some of those traditions go back generations in families.
While this may be a time of many positive experiences, it may also be a time of great difficulties for some folks in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Sometimes relationships have been strained by the consequences of addiction and may not have yet been resolved. For some, there are many environmental and cultural triggers. While the celebrations may involve the use of alcohol, that is not the best choice for someone in recovery. How does one participate in the celebration without drinking? How does one deal with family and friends who are grateful for the recovery but are sure that “you can have just one during the holidays”?
There is often a lot of explicit or implicit pressure places on those in recovery. There might be years of baggage that comes back to the light during family gatherings, rituals and traditions that involve drinking, or other high-risk behaviors. Just the stress of adjusting to a new way of life, a new attitude, and new values can be exhausting! Hopefully those in recovery will have a plan to deal with the pressures of the holidays. It’s a good idea to think about what might happen, who will be at the gathering, and discuss the various pitfalls with a support group and/or sponsor. Having a plan is critical.
If you’re not in recovery yourself, but have family or friends who are, be sensitive to needs of the recovering addict. Needing to go to a meeting or call a sponsor is not a threat to the family or an insult to the process, it is the recovering person taking care of themselves. Be respectful of the changes that someone has made and allow them the space to practice their recovery. We can all make it through the holidays and maintain recovery.
Be thoughtful, have a plan and be safe!