It isn’t easy to describe the 2020 holiday season. Under the best of circumstances, people are trying to coordinate meals, gifts, travel, and time off from work. This year, however, people are figuring out how to stay safe from the Covid-19 epidemic and cope with some typical holiday stressors.
For people in recovery, the stakes are extremely high this year. Some may be looking at their first sober holiday in years and are now dealing with the disappointment of not seeing family or friends as they had planned. Some may still even be in treatment and not looking forward to celebrating in a treatment center or even halfway house.
Holidays without alcohol or drugs can be a challenge. Without the same access to a support network as one enjoyed pre-pandemic, it’s easy to focus on the challenges instead of solutions. Here are ten tips for anyone to use to start planning a memorable year:
1. Fully use technology
Yes, we’re all sick of Zoom, but it is popular for a reason. Make sure to Facetime or video call your family. Text. Use the phone. Use Facebook messenger. Just remember that, thankfully, we live in a time where the people you love are no more than a phone call away. Take advantage of the opportunity that technology has given us. If you’re in treatment, most places will allow phone calls on the halls – be sure to ask!
Go to an AA, NA, or CA meeting or marathon meeting online. Better yet, if you’re area has any meetings, it’s a great way to spend a holiday. Many AA groups have a tradition called an “Alca-thon” where there are 24 hours of continuous meetings in one location. Because of Covid-19, many groups are doing this virtually.
2. Build your own sober traditions – even if they are virtual
Try to rearrange your thinking. You now have a chance to build your own sober traditions and start your own new day. Remember, too; there are no rules. If you want to order Chinese food instead of a turkey, do it! Instead of a dinner get together, have an ice cream sundae party with your household.
Start thinking out of the box. What can help you celebrate you feel connected? Perhaps it’s a special movie you can watch with friends and family online. Maybe it’s a pro and/or college football event to watch. Why not tailgate in your home if you can’t go to your favorite game?
Another idea is to develop a meaningful sober tradition for yourself? Perhaps you donate a dollar for each year you are sober to a cause that’s important to you.
3. Speak with the professionals, and ask for help.
Again, the holidays are difficult in the best of circumstances. If you are in recovery, you may have some professional help to help you get through these difficult moments, especially if you are in treatment. If you have access to these resources, take advantage of them.
Call your sponsor if you are in a support group such as AA or NA. See if you can meet for a coffee outdoors somewhere to be around a supportive person. Remember, your sponsor is going through the holidays sober as well.
4. Stay busy
People often say that an alcoholics’ main problem centers in the mind. Too much time can lead to sadness, regret, resentment, and a desire to use or drink. Don’t just let yourself sit around. Instead, make sure to have a list of things to do that can keep you active and busy. This way, you will have activities to distract you from problematic thoughts or actions. Move a muscle – change a thought!
5. Find something fun to binge on
If there was ever a moment to get lost in a good television show, this is it. Thankfully, on-demand entertainment options offer a slew of ways that you can get lost in a fictional world. Have you been aching for that moment to just plop down on the couch for eight hours and completely lose yourself in a good show? This is it. Find a show you’ve wanted to binge on and go to town.
Lots of exercise. There is no question that exercise can help anyone, but particularly people who are in recovery. Exercise can change the chemicals in your brain, help you feel better, and help fight off those feelings of loneliness or sadness that can come from this holiday season. Do what you can to get in some exercise this year. It doesn’t have to be a massive weight lifting session, but remember, even a brief walk can help you feel better.
With Covid-19, many non-profits are desperate for help. If there is a way you can safely volunteer, find it. Do you know an animal shelter that needs help? A blood bank? Soup kitchen? Surely there are good causes that need your help, and you can do some good in the world.
Volunteering is a great way to increase gratitude. If you can’t travel to your family this year, you can practice gratitude that the people you may serve in a soup kitchen or food pantry may not be able to see family either. Being reminded that you are not alone is another way to increase gratitude.
8. Digital entertainment
Many articles have been written about how digital entertainment can help us feel connected, even during this pandemic. If you are a gamer, this may be the perfect day to start using digital entertainment to feel connected to others. This can be a great way of having fun and keeping your mind otherwise occupied.
9. Pamper yourself
Once you acknowledge just how difficult this day may be, do what you can to take care of yourself. That may mean different things to different people. It may mean going on a small business buying binge or getting that haircut you’ve been putting off. Whatever you do, make sure that you do it with kindness. Don’t berate yourself for your failings or the difficulties presented by your recovery lifestyle. Be nice to yourself, and act like you are being nice to yourself.
One of the worst things you can do is wake up on the morning of a holiday, realize it is a holiday, and come to the conclusion that you have absolutely no plan for how to get through the day. Mind you; you don’t need a formal, written plan. But you should have an idea of how you are going to get through the day, including a list of activities and people you can call if you get down.
Getting through the holidays can be tough for anyone in recovery, but right now, they can be nightmarishly difficult for everyone. Thankfully, there are proven strategies that can help you make it. Check out the above ten tips, and remember this advice: This, too, shall pass. You got this.