When you first enter recovery, you are beginning a new life that involves a variety of ‘firsts’. Some are incredible to experience and will fill your heart with love and gratitude, others will freeze you up in fear and anxiety. A big first that can cause anxiety for many is the first sober holiday season in the winter time. Mix in the pandemic we are dealing with now and things can seem insurmountable at times.
Everybody has different circumstances this holiday season, I am mainly speaking right now to those in early recovery who will be away from their family because of Covid-19.
Let me assure you can do this and make it memorable.
Changing Your Perspective
A massive lesson you learn in your first year of recovery is that people and situations don’t so much change when you get clean and sober, but your perspective does along with yourself. Much of life is all based on perspective, and there is always more than one.
For those who are dreading the upcoming Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year’s Eve, you need to remember something very vital.
This will not be forever.
I am over five years sober and will be alone this holiday season due to Covid, but I’d rather share my experience with my first sober holiday season. Of course, there wasn’t a pandemic, but I was 1,000 miles away from my family and was very upset about it.
I was in Florida and my family was up in New Jersey. After my mom informed me she didn’t think it was a good idea for me to come home yet (I was about 7 months sober) I threw myself a pity-party and then did my go-to move early in recovery, went to meetings and talked about it.
This is where things will look different for you in 2020. In-person meetings can be hard to come by around you, or you just aren’t comfortable going to them (that is perfectly okay!) Thankfully Zoom meetings have become extremely popular and can actually fill the void of in-person meetings we currently have in our lives. (AA Intergroup or Virtual-NA is a great place to start).
Join those meetings, find an open discussion and voice your sadness, anger or frustration about being away from loved ones for the holidays. That is precisely what I did for myself those few years ago. I went to meetings and shared my grief and found a handful of people who shared the same exact sentiment. Something about hearing other’s struggle with it and how they are handling it helped me so much.
This year take some solace that there are millions of people that are going through the same struggle as you. That may sound a bit crude but it’s the right perspective to have. Many in recovery will be alone come the holidays, it is up to all of us to connect with each other and lift each other up.
Make the Best of It
We have been in this pandemic for 8+ months, a saving grace has been technology that allows all of us to stay connected to each other. Social media and cell phones/computers have done a fantastic job connecting everyone who is keeping a distance from one another.
As we head into the season very soon, let’s look at a few ways to get creative in order to celebrate the holidays and stay 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. Give enough time for people to purchase things and mail them. Bam! You have a gift to look forward to.
Zoom Dinner Party – Now we are getting creative, believe it or not people do have Zoom dinner parties. It’s up to you and you group to decide how dedicated you want to get. It is a legitimate replacement for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and will absolutely be one you never forget.
Coordinate with your family/friends if you want there to be a theme, if you all want to cook the same thing or if you want everyone to surprise each other with their décor/meal. Plan a game to play or a movie to watch together as well before or after and you have yourself a responsible, socially distanced Covid dinner party!
New Year’s Eve Zoom parties are going to be very popular this year, start planning yours now!
Write Letters – There is a lot of power in pen to paper, and writing letters is a lost art. Think of a few friends or family members who are special to you. Write something to them, it does not have to be profound, just write from your heart and it will leave both you and the person receiving the letter very fulfilled this holiday season.
Stay Connected to Your Support System
No matter what, your recovery is top priority and more important than anything else. As we cruise through November, make sure you are staying plugged into your sober support network. Tough times like these are when people in recovery need to lean on each other.
Remember, you are not the only person who may be isolated from family for the holidays, a lot of people are having to experience this during this very difficult time. Check in with your other sober friends and they will surely check in with you. On those days you feel a real funk coming on, find that one person you can be transparent with and lay it on them.
One last time, here is a good perspective. This holiday season will be something you will never forget, I remember dreading my first sober Christmas down in South Florida away from family, I really thought it was going to be a crummy day.
When the day did finally come, I had made the best of it with a few other friends in the same situation; and while it was very unconventional Christmas day, it was a day I will always remember and cherish.
Make the best of this 2020 pandemic holiday season, things will get better and you need to make sure you continue to get better.