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How to Navigate the Holidays in Recovery During COVID

The holiday season can be an emotionally intense time of year, particularly for those in early recovery.  For some of us, we are thrilled to finally be physically and emotionally present for our families, free of mind or mood altering substances.  This can be daunting (“Can I make it through dinner with my family without a glass of wine?!”) or freeing (“My intoxicated state isn’t going to fill my family with fear and sadness this year”).  Often we spend days and weeks thinking about how our family will react, how we’ll feel, creating a strategy to maintain our recovery & more.  But COVID-19 and different state restrictions have changed the holidays for families across the country, preventing many folks from being physically present with their family this year.  Here are some strategies to help combat feelings of isolation and sadness if you can’t be with your family during the holiday season.

  1. Technology rules – let’s use it! We can schedule time to Facetime/Zoom/call our families during the day AND we can hop on a 12-step meeting anywhere in the world at virtually any time.  Keep an eye on your local intergroup website, as many will post flyers for marathon meetings across the country – this means there’s a meeting every hour on the hour, sometimes in 24-48 hour blocks.

  2. Is your family a healthy support system? Check in for support. Set up a call or video chat and invite as many family members as you want.  This can eliminate feelings of isolation during the holidays. Is your family unhealthy? Thank goodness for a 40 minute timecap on a Zoom call! You can still be present and tell your family you love them, but be strategic – interact earlier in the day to avoid a drunken tirade. Always say “I love you” before you hang up.

  3. Give to others with no expectations, especially when you’re struggling.  This may look like making phone calls to others who you know are alone for the holidays and simply asking them how they’re doing.  We can give without ever spending a penny.  Even if we’re remaining socially distant, we can invite someone for a long walk (masked up!) and simply talk.  Small acts of kindness can change our perspective. Drop off a handwritten holiday note to people in your network – you will be amazed at how many people treasure this small gesture.

  4. Check in with your network.  Chances are good that most of the folks you know are having a holiday season that looks exponentially different this year. Everyone is trying to adjust. Talk about it with your network and listen when people share with you. It’s incredible to discover that we’re all just humans trying to navigate this world.

  5. Be honest.  If you’re struggling, don’t be too proud to share.  It can be hard to find peace and gratitude in this season, and often we find that others feel the same way.  The people who love you never want you to feel alone, even if they can’t physically be with you. Talk about what you’re experiencing and know that it doesn’t make you “less recovered” to admit that this isn’t an easy time for you.

Above all, remember that contracting and spreading COVID-19 is a real fear for many families.  If your family says you can’t come home, it’s not because they don’t love you or want to be with you. Sometimes what’s said and what we hear are worlds apart.

As always, if you or a loved one are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out. Our Executive Director is ready for your call to point you in the right direction for treatment services.