I’ll never forget my first sober Christmas and New Year’s. I had about two and a half months free from alcohol and drug use (which seemed miraculous at the time, as it still does today), and I was preparing for what I knew would be a test of the principles that I had been reading and hearing about daily. I was nervous but tried to be completely honest with those around me. That honesty was especially helpful when I was in environments that were full of temptation (in my case, family gatherings that were fueled by alcohol). I was also eager to share the glimmers of new life I had been experiencing, even though I wasn’t sure how it would be received.
Leading up to this Christmas, I have heard many men and women tell stories about how they did not make it through previous holiday seasons without caving in to the lure of drinking, using drugs, eating compulsively, or acting out in their addiction, compulsion, or unhealthy attachment. For those recovering from addictions of any kind, the holidays bring about a variety of stresses, old behaviors and environments, interactions that may provoke a relapse, and more availability of the things from which we are trying to break free. Sometimes perceived loneliness and realized loss can trigger destructive behavior, which tends to creep up as we get swept away by the hoopla of the holidays.
Statistics show that binge drinking, alcohol-related deaths, and drunk driving rates increase between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Those that struggle with unhealthy eating behaviors find it more difficult to stay on the path towards healing. Emotional and mental disorders can reveal themselves in more devastating ways during this time as well. For those who have recently lost a loved one or are going through divorce/separation, this Christmas may uncover heavy grief.
5 Tips To Stay Peaceful And Sober During The Holidays
As we approach the celebration of our Lord’s entrance into our lives and surround ourselves with others, here are a few ways to remain at peace through it all:
- Stay accountable. Whether traveling or not, it is a great idea to book-end your day with interactions with those who understand what you are going through. Stay in touch with those in your recovery fellowship and be willing to take phone calls from those who are experiencing moments of difficulties. You are not alone, and regular interactions with others is a great reminder of that.
- Limit your expectations. It’s said that our level of serenity is inversely proportional to our level of expectations. When we have unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others, it can create angst, frustration, and inevitable backlash. While we cannot manage our environment, we can manage boundaries around our expectations and assumptions.
- Give thanks. If God has freed you from the grip of addiction, you’ve been given a great gift. Recovery is not always a perfectly paved road, and turbulence is bound to happen at times. However, it always beats the alternative of resorting back to the shackles of our addictions. We are to celebrate the coming of our Lord, who has made Himself known in beautiful ways to the recovering addict!
- Look for new opportunities to invite Christ into your life. For a lot of years, the holidays were, amongst many things, an excuse to over-indulge. Opportunities for vice are more present during this time, but so is the opportunity to welcome Christ (back) into your life. Share that love with others and be of service if you can.
- Keep to healthy routines as much as possible. Finding a fraction of what keeps serenity in your life throughout the rest of the year during the Christmas festivities will help solidify who you are. This may require giving yourself permission to step away for a little bit, which should be welcomed by those who now get to spend time with you fully alive as a result.
Despite the uncertainty, I look back with gratitude to that first sober Christmas back with my family and friends. Getting through that week without drinking or using drugs propelled me further on the Road of Happy Destiny. There was even a moment at a New Year’s Eve dinner held by one of my friends when I looked around and realized that no one was drinking that night. They had gone out of their way to enjoy a sober New Year’s Eve in solidarity with the changes that I was attempting to make—an act that still brings me joy and appreciation.
As we reflect on the Nativity and Incarnation of Jesus, let us not forget His daily presence in our lives. From those of us at Catholic in Recovery, God bless you and Merry Christmas!
Hope for Catholic Addicts
Catholic in Recovery was a finalist in the 2021 OSV Challenge, a contest designed to accelerate project ideas that will make a profound impact on the Catholic Church and the world.
Learn More About Catholic In Recovery
Catholic in Recovery is a nonprofit organization that seeks to serve those suffering from addictions and unhealthy attachments (including alcoholism, drug addiction, pornography addiction, sex and relationship addiction, compulsive overeating and food addictions, gambling addiction, codependency and the impact on family, and general fear, control, and anxiety). The organization was started by the passion of Scott Weeman as he found healing and new life through the help of twelve-step recovery and the sacramental love and mercy provided by the Catholic Church. We support parishes and communities with group resources that draw people closer to these two powerful sources of grace. It is the aim of Catholic in Recovery to share the Good News that God can bring about healing and recovery, even in the most hopeless of cases.