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5 Reasons to Embrace Holidays in Recovery Even if You Don’t Want To

In recovery, it can be easy to simply opt out of doing the things that make you uncomfortable, and in many cases, it is the best choice if the alternative causes so much stress that you are at risk of relapse. However, if the thing that is causing you stress is holiday celebrations – so much so that you are considering pretending like the holidays are not even happening – it is worth it to consider what you and your recovery have to gain from slowly beginning the process of incorporating the holidays into your new sober lifestyle.

Here are just a few reasons why:

  1. Life cycle events and markers in the year matter. There are reasons that, historically, humans have marked different times of the year with festivals and celebrations. People need a break. They need downtime that is designated for nothing but relaxation and enjoying life. You work hard in recovery, creating a new and stable life for yourself, repairing relationships, and working through issues from the past. Though you cannot technically take a break from recovery, it is important to give yourself the opportunity to enjoy yourself, acknowledge all you have done by resting and celebrating with gratitude all you have gained in your new sober life.
  2. Traditions matter. Whether or not you grew up with family traditions or religious traditions that are meaningful to you this time of year, you have the opportunity to create new traditions in recovery that resonate with who you are now. Depending on who you are and where you want to be in your life, you can use the holidays as a time to reconnect with things that matter to you or to explore new traditions and see how they fit into your new sober experience. This can mean spending time with new friends, learning how to cook (or bake), hosting a Thanksgiving of your own, volunteering at a local food bank or shelter, attending religious services, going hiking, or doing anything that allows you to mark the holiday season.
  3. People matter. One of the most important parts of any holiday celebration is the people you choose to spend it with. Whether you opt to include family members you have known all your life, spend time with your new friends in recovery, or connect with new people who may have recently come into your life, the focus can and should be on building relationships through celebration and positive memories.
  4. Spiritual growth matters. Whether or not you assign any religious or spiritual significance to any of the approaching holidays, when you take the time to acknowledge the celebrations and institute your own traditions, you give yourself the spiritual space to explore and consider what is available to you and what you need in your life. Even if your focus this year is on kicking back at home with friends and next year it’s all about packing up for an amazing trip, by taking part in the holidays each year, you always have the option to add a deeper layer if you so choose.
  5. Celebration matters. It is important to leave space in your life to live in the happy times. Though your celebratory moments may not look like those that happen on department store commercials or sitcoms, it is important to give yourself permission to live in joy or contentment during the holidays. This could mean giving yourself a day to sleep in and eat nothing but pancakes all day, or it could mean taking a day to spend at a museum you have never visited or hanging out at the park with friends – whatever makes you happy.

If you find it is difficult to engage in the holidays and your sobriety is at risk as a result, it is important to remain actively connected to your recovery. This can mean continuing to go to 12-Step meetings or going to extra meetings if your therapist or medical providers are not available during the holidays. It can mean staying in close contact with your sponsor or seeking support through holistic treatment options. The holidays are yours to enjoy in a way that is meaningful to who you are in recovery, but sobriety must come first.

How will you spend the holidays this year? Are you concerned that your sobriety is at risk?