Most of my blogs have been holiday-related recently and the main reason behind that is... Tis the season. Also, it's one of my favorite times of the year. I enjoy the music and time with family the holiday season has to offer just enough not to get overwhelmed by them. The food too, I LOVE the food we traditionally have between Thanksgiving and New Year's.
But what most people don't know is that the first two holiday seasons during my early recovery journey were VERY difficult for me. My main issue was alcohol, and even though most of my family drank responsibly, there were a select few who did not. Between being around that behavior and the fact that my mental health was immeasurably unstable at the time, I opted to avoid the holidays at all costs those years. Even though most of my family agreed to have a "dry" holiday, I had to stay away. They didn't realize it, but having to change things like that actually made it worse for me. I know they did it out of love, but I had already affected their lives so much with my addiction. I was finally gaining some control over it and couldn't let it affect them in any other way. Not to mention the fact that the nonsupportive few would have made it obnoxiously clear that their "fun" was being affected by me. And that was a hit to my already fragile mental health that I had to protect at all costs.
“Christmas sweaters are only acceptable as a cry for help.” — Andy Borowitz
A wise man once said "In early recovery, it's people, places, and things." and then quoted the Bible or something. But what he was getting at is that it truly matters what/whom you surround yourself with during the early stages of recovery. The same wise guy, uh I mean man, says "If you hang around a barber shop, you're eventually going to get a haircut" and that goes both ways. For example: if you hang out with people who are uplifting and positive, there's a real good chance it's going to rub off on you and you're going to adopt at least some of those character traits. But on the flip side, if you hang out with negativity or users, especially in early recovery, there's an extremely high chance...you're going to give in and use again. You can say all you want to the contrary, but it happens more than anyone can imagine. I saw an example of this very recently, so it's best to just be careful.
Now, because of this, and it being the holidays, I have gathered a few tips to help people in early recovery. Starting with:
1.) STAY AWAY from the substances. It doesn't matter if it's illicit or something you can buy at a store. It doesn't matter if the people you'll be with are using responsibly. Just STAY AWAY from it. That means staying from the people as well. It may be friends, it may be family, but it doesn't matter. If they truly care about your health and well-being, they'll be supportive. And if they aren't understanding, then that's a sign that these are people you need to distance yourself from for your recovery and life's sake.
2.) Find someone to talk to. A sponsor, a peer recovery coach, a friend that supports your recovery. Just be careful. They need to be supportive of your decisions to put your recovery and new lifestyle first. This is a VERY important part of this tip. The people you choose to interact with, in this stage of your recovery, are VERY important to your success, and this can affect the balance between disaster and your life itself.
3.) Find something to do. I'd say find something healthy to do, but as long as it's not putting you in the path of using your DOC it's healthy enough. Start that new hobby you're thinking about, binge-watch that show everyone's talking about, or catch up on the sleep you probably need. I had a lot of sleep issues during early recovery so I spent more than a few nights during those early recovery holiday nights trying to figure out what it meant to have a healthy sleep schedule.
These are just a few things that helped me gain success and survive the holiday season during my walk through early recovery. Everyone's path is a bit different, but things like the people, places, things, and barber shops are an almost universal law in early recovery. Unfortunately, to get that new life we are searching for through sobriety there are almost always sacrifices that need to be made along the way. With how recovery has enhanced my life in the last three years, I'll take missing a few holidays for a new lease on life any day.
Make this last month of 2023 a good one. Remember to stay joyful everybody, and don't be a Grinch.