A Sober Season: Facing the Holidays with Courage
Being in treatment during the holiday season comes with many emotions. As we associate the season with being around friends and loved ones, homesickness is a common symptom during this time, and can further complicate the already complex feelings that we experience in recovery from addiction.
For many, treatment takes place in an environment far from home. Away from creature comforts and traditional family gatherings, the holiday season can appear bleak and sad. According to many professionals in psychiatry, the season can lead to depression for many individuals, whether it stems from homesickness, grand expectations, or stressful family situations.
Under the magnifying glass of holiday stress, it is important to remember the practical steps you can take to ensure a happy and healthy season for yourself—and your sobriety.
I’ve spent many Christmas seasons away from home, and there’s no getting around it—it’s not exactly the most fun. One year I went to see the movie Brooklyn as I spent the holiday by myself. In it, a girl immigrates to the US from Ireland, and is terribly homesick when she arrives.
Around the holidays, she visits a priest at her new church, one who also immigrated from Ireland. He tells her, “Homesickness is like most sicknesses. It’ll make you feel bad, and then it’ll move on to someone else.”
And you’ll move on to something else, too.
That’s the thing about homesickness, and feeling out of your element. It’s not a clear science—sometimes it will hit you out of nowhere. And when it does, it’s an unwelcome visitor—particularly during the holidays when circumstances have kept you away from home.
Although, if you make a plan for yourself to combat those feelings of melancholy, you will be on the fast track to moving on to whatever’s next. The fortunate part about the holiday season is that it only lasts so long, and that it’s an indicator of a fresh, new year on the horizon.
Consider the following options when creating your holiday plans.
The greatest gift in sobriety is the chance to start over. Although the timing of your addiction treatment may not seem ideal now, think of where you may be at this time next year, successful and thriving in sobriety. Consider what might have happened if you hadn’t made such an incredible choice for yourself to get help.
Take this time to re-center your goals, and finish the year out on a good note. Make a list of what you’d like to accomplish in 2018—whether it’s going back to school, finding employment, or something else—and focus on the steps you need to take to get there.
One of the most rewarding experiences during the holidays can be giving back to the community. Talk to your therapist about how you’re feeling during the season, and ask for some recommendations to volunteer.
Whether it’s cooking a new dish or attending a beach service, there are many traditions you can continue—or make your own. Connect with your community and enjoy the camaraderie that can be found amongst your peers—many of them are away from home too, and could also use your support and friendship.