Holidays have always been challenging for me. As a child of an addict, I viewed the entire holiday experience as a well-orchestrated symphony of dysfunction. Though I did look forward to the magic of the season, I dreaded the reactions of family members who seemed to always attempt to steal its joy.
That reality filled the holidays with grief and surges of sometimes confusing emotions. However, once I learned how to embrace the new normal, I was free to make my own traditions and create my own definition of the holiday season.
Whether you and I share a similar story or you’re simply looking for ways to keep yourself at peace during this holiday season, here are a few ways to create an enjoyable experience for yourself.
1. Start your own traditions.
There is no rulebook for the holiday season. In other words, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate. You can choose to spend the holiday hanging out with friends, family or on your own as you enjoy a large potluck feast or dine on a holiday-inspired pizza.
Some holiday traditions to consider are hosting an ugly sweater themed get-together with your recovery community, organizing a coat or canned food drive to kick off the season of giving, or creating a ceremonial tradition that honors your native heritage or culture.
Of course, the list doesn’t stop there. Just as your recovery is your responsibility, so is your holistic health and sense of inner peace. This means the possibilities are endless and completely up to you.
2. Adapt, don’t maladapt.
Maladapting involves becoming dysfunctional in an effort to maintain balance within a dysfunctional family. Unfortunately, it is often what individuals in dysfunctional families do every day of the year, and especially during the holiday season. If this is the case for you, it’s time for you to break that tradition now.
Rather than maladapting, choose to adapt instead. See the dysfunction for what it is and choose differently. Practice a healthy level of emotional detachment that allows you to either bypass the dysfunctional family altogether (if necessary) or simply pop in only long enough to drop off a home-cooked dish or batch of cookies. Then, employ your own traditions with your friends, fur babies or self-created family for the remainder of the holiday.
And as a gentle reminder regarding setting healthy boundaries, do not get caught up in guilt or shame. Both are weapons used in dysfunctional families and pose clear threats to your successful recovery.
3. Tap into your inner child.
For most children, the holiday season tends to be magical. Many of you will agree that this is due to the fact that a child remains open to new ideas and are able to rely on their imagination to brighten up surrounding circumstances. Certainly, I know this to be true.
Growing up as a child of an addict, the holiday environment was far from one of sugar plums, turtle doves and whimsical things. But somehow, I forged a way to find the magic of the season. Throughout adulthood, we tend to hide away our sense of imagination, but this season is an excellent time to dig deep, pull it back out and let it do its thing. While we may not reawaken a belief in Santa Claus, we just might create an opportunity for a holiday miracle, like seeing yourself through another year of sobriety.
4. Seek community.
If you are struggling with feelings of loneliness due to lack of family or lack of desire to spend it with your own, do not hesitate to reach out. There is no shame in asking friends or someone in your recovery community if you can spend holidays with them and/or their family. In fact, most people feel honored by such a request.
Know there will come a time in your recovery when you will be able to spend time alone without feeling lonely, but that time may not be now. And, for the record, that is OK. Simply be self-aware enough to realize that if you feel you’re in need of community, look for it.
5. Embrace a recovery family.
Your recovery community is an extension of your family. And, for those who have no family, it may actually become a substitute family. Either way, the recovery community is typically a great place to build your own set of people to love and care for; a collective relationship that is centered on personal growth, healing and positive change.
So don’t be afraid to embrace the idea of a recovery family. Turn to trusted individuals within your recovery group during the holiday season and create traditions that keep everyone, including you, feeling a sense of belonging, safety and success in recovery.
If you or someone you know is seeking assistance in getting through the holiday season, please visit our directory of counseling and therapy centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.