12-Day Survival Plan for the Holiday Season

holiday season

By: Aleah Johnson, Vice President of Alumni Outreach and Family Services

Day 1: Christmas Present

Attending family gatherings can be difficult, as you have probably hurt some people in your circle, and they may not be quick to forgive your actions. Some people may doubt your ability to stay sober, others may have a nonchalant attitude toward your struggles. You can’t change an entire family in one night; forgiving and understanding comes with time.

Tip: In the meantime, focus on being in the here and now. It is not Christmas “past” but Christmas “present.” Put your best foot forward and remind yourself that you may not have been here to celebrate the holiday if you didn’t commit to treatment.

Day 2: Home Alone

Not everyone has family around them. Being alone for the holidays is difficult for anyone, but it is particularly difficult for someone in recovery who needs extra support. Don’t use this loneliness as an excuse to veer off track. Stick to your recovery goals and remember that you are doing this for YOU!

Tip: Reach out to members in your 12-Step group. Many would be happy to open their homes to a friend in need. Or consider starting your own safe holiday traditions.

Day 3: Spirit of Giving

A great way to get through the holidays while building your character is donating your time to a local charity, food drive, homeless shelter, toy drive, soup kitchen, or attending a church service. Nothing is more rewarding than serving those around you.

Day 4: Surviving the Sounds

You may have spent last Christmas in the heart of your addiction. The sights and sounds of the holiday can be enough of a trigger. Reach out to family, friends, and self-help groups to get added support. Keep yourself busy instead of spending time in front of the TV or locked in your house. Follow your aftercare plan and have outlets for stress, such as meditating, yoga, or following other self-care practices.

Day 5: Keeping Spirits Bright

Reflect on this time of year and acknowledge the things that have changed instead of focusing on the mistakes that were made. In order to get to where you are today, you had to admit your problem and seek the appropriate action to work on your recovery. You have come a long way! Stay positive and hold your head high. Recovery is not about what you lose, but about what you gain.

Day 6: I’ll be Home for Christmas

Even though some of your relationships may be strained, focus on strengthening them this holiday. Now is a good time to reunite with friends and family with the potential of starting new traditions.

Day 7: Trimming the Invites

If you get a mailbox full of invitations to holiday parties and gatherings, consider yourself lucky and loved. However, this attention also comes with the responsibility to choose which events to attend. Remind yourself that not all environments are conducive to your recovery, and you will need separate these invites from the others. This does not mean that you have to cut yourself off from everyone, it means choose your celebrations wisely and practice good habits like bringing a sober friend along and having an exit strategy in place.

Day 8: Believe in the Season

When you believe in the joy and the magic of the holiday season, you’re bound to find happiness. You don’t have to see something to believe in it. This season, believe in yourself and your recovery; look at how wonderful your life in recovery is, without anything holding you down. Believing in your ability to stay sober is one of the best gifts you can give yourself!

Day 9: All I Want for Christmas

In life we have a tendency to glamorize images of the holiday season. Manage your expectations at this time of year and be prepared for disruptions to your schedule. Things do not always go perfectly, and there will be disappointments. Don’t let it ruin the true spirit of the holidays. Move away from the impractical thinking and let the holidays happen the way they are meant to: perfectly imperfect.

Day 10: Joy to Others

As addicts, we tend to be selfish and consumed in our problems. Realize the layers of recovery and take responsibility for your actions rather than blaming others. Forgiving others and yourself takes time. Work on letting go of the past. You can’t force forgiveness, but you can actively work on it. When you find it in your heart to be truly happy for others, you know that forgiveness is taking place

Day 11: Spreading Holiday Cheer

Volunteering is not the only way to find a higher purpose for your life. You have been through various situations and experiences personally, which means you can offer empathy and compassion that others can’t. Find people in your life or community that could use extra support right now. You personally know how it feels to be at the bottom, but your story can give strength and courage to others.

Day 12: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Recovery Holiday Season!

Lights, good food, friends, family, and decorations are all indications that the holidays are underway. The signs of your own recovery are just as apparent! All you need to do is acknowledge them. It can be hard to envision life after treatment or life in recovery, but hopefully you begin to see your path of life unfolding before you. The holidays only come once a year, but recovery is forever.

If you are struggling or need support, please reach out, we are here for you.