Entering recovery means you are setting yourself up for a lot of ‘firsts’. Some are amazing and fill you with gratitude, others are difficult and cause a lot of fear. Your first winter holiday season in recovery will usually gear towards the difficult side. Throw in the monkey wrench that is Covid-19 and we have a set of circumstances that may seem impossible to get through.
We all have different circumstances this holiday season, for many in early recovery, you will be away from your family this holiday season because of the pandemic.
I am speaking to you.
Let me assure you right now, you can do this.
A New Perspective
Something that is going to be a running theme in recovery is that when we face situations that can be troubling, the only thing we can change about the situation is our perspective on it. For those having anxiety about the upcoming Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year’s Eve, you need to tell yourself this one important thing.
This isn’t going to be forever.
I can relate my experience of my first holiday season sober to this current situation because I was not able to see my family in person either. Sure, there wasn’t a pandemic, but I still had to face the reality of being on my own for the holidays.
Once I made that realization I was staying in Florida and after I got done throwing myself a pity party (go ahead, end yours too) I did what my usual go-to was in early recovery. I went to a few meetings and talked about it.
This is where it may look different for you in the 2020 holiday season. In person meetings may be scarce around you or you may just not feel safe going to in-person meetings. That is perfectly okay! Find an online meeting (AA Intergroup or Virtual-NA is a great place to start) and use it as your avenue to express your feelings about being alone for the holidays.
I went to meetings and shared my sadness about not being able to go see my family and how much it upset me. What happened next was 3 or 4 other people shared the same sentiment. There was something about knowing I wasn’t the only one going through that situation that made me able to accept it quite easily.
This year, do yourself a favor and take some type of solace that many people are not able to be with loved ones this year. I know that may sound a bit crude, but it’s the truth. Many people in recovery this year are spending the holidays alone, it is up to us to connect with each other and reassure each other we will all be okay. This isn’t going to be forever.
Just think about how special the next holiday season will be when you are sober and with your loved ones.
Making the Best of Things
We are about 8 months into this pandemic, if there is anything positive to acknowledge it is how the entire world has adjusted to make the best of things in a dire situation. Technology and social media have made it possible to stay connected with anyone who matters to us and that has been our saving grace during this time.
As we are still a few weeks away from the holidays starting, let’s take a look at some creative ideas to celebrate while staying safe.
Secret Santa – Get together with your family or circle of friends and organize a secret Santa. There are plenty of sites online that will organize it for you. Allow enough time for people to purchase things and mail them. Bam! You have a gift to look forward to.
Zoom Dinner Party
Remember when I said people were making the best of a dire situation? Yes, people have Zoom dinner parties. It’s up to you how dedicated you want to be, but it is a great replacement for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner you may be missing with your family
You can choose to have a theme, and to decorate. Plan a movie or a game to play along with the dinner, or you can just simply eat dinner in front of a computer while you talk to your family who you miss and love dearly. It’s up to you!
I know I will be having a raging Zoom New Year’s Eve party this year. If New Year’s Eve seems like it’s going to be a tough time for you, make sure you are not celebrating alone. You can still enjoy others’ company without being with them in person.
I truly believe there is a ton of power in pen to paper. Find a few people who you hold dear to your heart and write them a letter. It doesn’t have to be anything profound, just something genuine, informing them that you are grateful to have them in your life and you miss them.
I’ve done this before under different circumstances and it really was a fulfilling experience. Just writing what is on your heart to certain people and knowing how much they will appreciate being surprised by it and reading it. It will most definitely fill your heart with love this holiday season.
Ultimately, your recovery is the most important priority in your life, even through the holidays. When you are having that rough day, filled with living inside your head, make a call and talk to someone in your network.
As I mentioned earlier, you are absolutely not the only person going through a holiday away from loved ones, many people in your sober network are dealing with the same issues. Check in with them regularly and lean onto each other, isn’t that always the goal?
If you are feeling a certain way about something, have at least one person you communicate that feeling to clearly. Having transparency with at least one person we trust in recovery is vital to making sure we can maintain some peace and serenity. Holding things in can take any of us to the last thing we want, a relapse.
Look at it this way, once you go through these holidays, I promise it will be something you never forget. I remember dreading my first Christmas in recovery down in Florida away from my family. I thought it was going to be a terrible day.
When the day finally came, I made the best of it with a few others who were in the same boat and while it wasn’t a conventional Christmas, it was a day I will never forget and always cherish.
Make the best of these 2020 holidays, remember things will get better but you need to make sure you continue to get better.