Christmas in Recovery

Christmas in Recovery

Christmas should be an enjoyable time for everyone filled with family, celebration and excitement. However, if you have a problem with alcohol / drugs or are in recovery staying clean can be a real minefield. You may find it more difficult to control your habit on festive occasions when drinks and drugs are easily accessible.


Not drinking becomes more obvious at this time of year, and even though more people than ever are choosing not to drink. For those in early recovery there can be many challenges during this festive period. These can take the form of:

Unhealthy family dynamics
Financial pressures
Staff do’s
The almost 2 weekly alcohol ‘free for all’ that happens as result in our current culture. 


The temptation to ease the stress of these challenges and fit in is great. In the past, Christmas for me was just another excuse to sedate myself. I would return home to my parents’ house and spend the duration ‘stoned’ and ‘drunk’, quiet and withdrawn. Christmas morning changed from a joyous and exciting time to one with me barely wanting to get out of bed (Unless for a drink that was).


There was nothing ‘Merry’ about it.


To get myself back into the Christmas spirit I’d meticulously prepare my days’ worth of joints (and I don’t mean beef or turkey) and have an early drink (it was Christmas after all). The reality for me was that I hadn’t experienced a sober or clean Christmas since I was a young teenager. 


Then came Christmas 2011. My first ever ‘sober’ festive period. I wasn’t a particularly happy one, it was a tough time. When everyone around you seems to be so happy, while inside you only feel like something is missing, can lead you to feelings of loneliness (despite being surrounded by others), frustration and anxiety. 


If, for example, your family, work colleagues or friends do not know about your problem or that you are in recovery at all, over the Christmas holidays they may well notice that your behaviour is different, and you are more nervous or irritable than usual. 


These negative feelings can convince you that you need a drink or drug to numb them, or to make you feel happy. Trying to hide your problem with alcohol or substances from family, friends or colleagues, can also lead to feelings of guilt, that again make you feel bad about yourself and make you more vulnerable to repeat the pattern of excessive, repeated consumption.


I read a post by Castle Craig, a recovery centre based in the UK, and it outlined some of the negative emotions that commonly rear their ugly head around this time of year. I have added some advice on how to manage them those feelings.


1: Self-pity or The ‘Poor Me’s” – This stops real communication. Spend time investing in or helping others – do something – cook, help with preparations – be available. Take the focus away from ‘self’.


2: Boredom – Structure, timetable and plan. Make solid plans then stick to them. With more available time during this period be proactive, don’t sit and dwell.


3: Pride and Shame – Self-acceptance and humility is important. Acknowledge that it is you that has this problem and be ready to take control of it during this time. Don’t be embarrassed. It is what it is.


4: Resentment – Watching others drink and be merry leads to resentment of your situation. That resentment leads to frustration, and frustration leads you to…… you know where.


5: Anxiety – A day at a time. It will pass. The only way to get through the anxiety is to experience it for what it is, a response to something that hasn’t happened.  Find ways to distract yourself. Competitive monopoly with family helps.


This year why not start a new Christmas tradition?
Give yourself and your loved ones the best gift of all.


The gift of a sober, clean and healthy you.