How To Navigate The Holidays Without Family During Early Recovery

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How To Navigate The Holidays Without Family During Early Recovery

Whether by choice or by necessity, recovery can often leave you alone during the holidays. This can make an already very difficult time of the year that much more difficult emotionally. Facing the holidays in early recovery is challenging enough. How do you navigate recovery during the holiday season without substance use and without family?

Facing the Holidays in Early Recovery

The holidays are a challenging time of year emotionally for many people. For as much as happy memories and goodwill are promoted, many people experience quite the opposite. Depression is most common during and after the holidays. One of the factors that cause so many negative experiences and emotions is the amount of alcohol and other substances consumed during this time of the year. Both the emotional factors and the increased availability of substances make the holidays a time of increased chance of relapse for individuals in recovery.

For many people in recovery, there are memories and other triggers of past trauma associated with the holidays. Often, that trauma centers around past relationships or family members who are no longer in your life for one reason or another. When you are facing the holidays for the first time in early recovery, and you are missing loved ones, it makes it much more difficult to stay sober. Facing the holidays with triggers and without any family at all, it can feel next to impossible to maintain your recovery.

Spending the Holidays Without Family

Watching other people spend time with their families can be difficult when you do not have your family to be with. You may be alone by necessity, because you are unable to travel, or because your family is not available. Furthermore, you may be alone due to the loss of family members or because of your recovery needs. Even if being without your family is a choice made for your well-being, spending the holidays without family can still be difficult.

While you may be able to avoid many of the family-related triggers that occur during the holiday season by being without family, you also do not have family members to share your wins with. Learning to survive the holidays without family is a way to learn how to stand on your own.

Being Alone vs. Feeling Lonely

When you are without family, you may feel very lonely. This may be true even if you are surrounded by friends, neighbors, coworkers, or other people. Loneliness is a feeling on the inside. These feelings of sadness and isolation can be purely emotional and not related to whether or not you are actually alone.

Then there is the actual physical distancing of being alone or separate from all other people. However, you can be alone and not feel lonely, and you can feel lonely even when you are not alone. Either of these situations can be dangerous for your sobriety. When you are both alone and feeling lonely, it can be disastrous for your recovery.

Making a Plan to Navigate the Holidays

Knowing that you will be without family during the holidays, you will need to make a plan to successfully navigate the holiday season to prevent both loneliness and being alone. Filling your days with meaningful, rewarding activities that involve being around other people will help you avoid both.

You will want to find a healthy balance between things you do for self-care and things you do for others. There is no need to have money to give to be able to do things for other people during the holidays. Rather, there are plenty of opportunities to dedicate your time and talents. By serving other people selflessly, you also give yourself the gift of not being lonely. The rewards of simple acts of kindness will go further than you think to help brighten other people’s lives. These acts of kindness will also bring benefits to you in your recovery.

How to Surround Yourself With New Family in Recovery

There is a reason that people like the saying, “Friends are the family you choose.” Friends are the people you love and choose to spend time with. Making your friends a part of your holiday plans will help you avoid being alone or lonely at this time of the year. Your friends may not replace your family, but in many ways, they may exceed your family in quality time together.

Make plans with your friends in recovery from your sober living facility, your 12-Step or other support meetings, exercise groups, work, or other places you have sober friends. The benefit of surrounding yourself with friends in recovery is that you mutually support one another. You may not be the only one trying to navigate the holidays without family. By spending time together, you create an all-new family that is built on love and the principles of recovery.