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With the holidays approaching quickly, it may be worthwhile to acknowledge how creating new and healthy holiday traditions is helpful for those in recovery. In the past, you may have connected your celebratory holiday traditions with substance use. While you are navigating life outside of treatment, it is important for you to find substance-free, sober approaches to holiday traditions. By understanding what you need for your unique recovery journey, you will be able to create new holiday traditions that add joy to your life for years to come. 

How Traditions Can Affect Recovery

If you have recently completed treatment, you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of the holidays. The holidays can surface new challenges, triggers, and cravings at any point in your recovery journey. It is essential that you have a plan in place for the moments of anxiety and distress that arise, especially during the holidays. Prevention and preparation help you to feel ready for what life throws your way and help others know how they can support you during these months. 

If your holiday traditions typically involved the use of alcohol or other drugs, you may want to reflect on how you can be a part of the upcoming holiday season in a way that protects your sobriety. Many families get stressed when traditions are questioned or a new idea is proposed in place of a past tradition. If you are surrounded by family members like this, your best route of action is to find a way to honor the past traditions without having to necessarily be a part of them. Especially if you are new to recovery, it will be a combination of trial and error to figure out what you are able to mentally handle during the holidays.

Set Healthy Boundaries with Family

Understand that reflecting on traditions does not only require you to acknowledge the tradition itself, but also all of the factors that play a role in the holiday gathering where the tradition is taking place. For example, if opening presents is a happy and sober family tradition but your relatives tend to ask inappropriate or triggering questions during the gathering, you may want to set a boundary with your relatives about what conversations are off-limits. If you know that getting together with family for Thanksgiving will enable problematic behaviors, make an exit plan for a close friend to pick you up if/when you need it. 

Creating New Traditions In Recovery

Instead of creating traditions solely because it is the holidays, consider what traditions you can establish that will bring more of what you need to your own life. For example, perhaps you struggle with self-reflection and self-worth. Maybe you would want to consider a tradition that involves:

  • a weekend getaway in nature that involves extensive time for introspection, meditation, or needed rest
  • writing letters to your loved ones that foster love, appreciation, and support in your life

If you struggle with community outreach and a sense of belonging, consider a tradition that involves:

  • volunteering at a soup kitchen during the peak holidays
  • provide staffing relief for volunteer positions, such as working at an animal shelter
  • donate presents at a local church or shelter
  • create gift bags or baskets to take to a homeless shelter

There are many different types of traditions that you can establish in your own life. Examples of more general, substance-free traditions you can establish include:

  • initiating a cookie or tree decorating competition
  • beginning a holiday movie marathon
  • taking your youthful family members sledding
  • attending a local holiday light show
  • attending a holiday concert

The Benefits of Traditions in Recovery

Recovery can be a rocky road. Although recovery gives you an opportunity to start over in life, you may find it challenging to stay grounded as you experience a new journey of sober self-discovery. Especially when the holidays come around, you may feel triggered by certain instances of substance use in the past. Establishing and continuing traditions during the holidays can give you something positive and worthwhile to look forward to. The holidays should not be a time of isolation, but instead, a time where you feel encouraged to reach out and lean in on your support systems. 

Family traditions or traditions with friends bring meaning to celebrations while fostering special, intimate bonds with loved ones. Traditions can bring about positive experiences and memories for all parties involved, especially contributing to a sense of purpose and belonging, even if just for a smile or a laugh. With life being as challenging and overwhelming as it can be from time to time, traditions provide a constant in our life to look forward to and to lean back on. 

The holidays bring about a time of intense overwhelm for many in recovery. If past traditions once involved substance use, the holidays can bring about intense triggers and cravings for those struggling to stay sober. In recovery, it is important to learn how to establish a plan for staying sober during the holiday season. Your plan might involve the creation of new, sober traditions for the upcoming holiday season. When you consider what traditions to initiate, also consider what other life elements you are lacking. West Coast Recovery Centers understands that the holiday season is inevitably difficult for those in recovery. Luckily, we also understand that celebrations of joy do not need to involve substance use. If you or your loved one needs guidance on how to heal from their addiction, give us a call. We would love to discuss our individualized and comprehensive services to help your loved one get the help that they need. Call us (760) 492-6509

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