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The Challenges to Having a Holiday that Nourishes your Soul

The Challenges to Having a Holiday in Recovery

One of my twitter followers suggested I write about designing a holiday that nourishes our soul. Not a holiday designed to get others approve of us. These are simple powerful words. These words include everything I write and teach in order to have an authentic life for yourself. The holidays are a very special time so why not have them nourish our soul. Remember if we are feeling nourished, we will nourish others. There are many challenges to having a holiday in recovery that actually aids you and your recovery. In this article we will address the possible breakdowns that interfere with all of us having the best holiday. These are some of the breakdowns I have heard from my clients over the years. I apologize if I didn’t address yours-send it to me for next year.Challenges to having a holiday in recovery

1: Past History

This breakdown is probably the number one concern I have heard over the years. The stories include horrific family fighting, the substance using person out of control, no money, everyone else seems to have a perfect holiday, returning home triggers past horrible treatment- particularly if you were the black sheep of the family, being shamed for who you are-your gift,  for starters.

2: Loss of Loved One

The holidays can be a particularly difficult time if you have recently or not so recently lost a family member, friend, partner, or someone you loved. The first year after someone has passed can be the most difficult because you are going through all the firsts-birthday, anniversary, holidays, Sundays (often a day to make a call to home), Father’s/Mother’s Day etc. If this is your first holiday season after a loss, it can be particularly difficult, and it is best if you have a plan.

3: No Money

This breakdown whether a chronic or recent issue can be especially difficult during a holiday that puts so much emphasis on presents.  This holiday season in the U.S. is known for doing just that.  Re-inventing this holiday to nurture your soul not for the approval of others will feel like you are swimming upstream. You are swimming upstream-acknowledge it. There are so many good people working several jobs, living in their car in order to do their job, working and raising their children alone, when it comes to “ok time to buy presents for everyone” it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. When your job has been wiped out because of natural disasters, decisions others are making which effect you, or circumstances beyond your control it is hard to bypass resentment, reinvent yourself and then “celebrate the holidays”.

4: Being Alone

If you are physically alone all the time, and you have to face being alone on a holiday that is supposed to be about being with family and friends, you will also feel like you are swimming upstream. Again, you are swimming upstream. All the ads, pictures, stories are about families and friends being together over the holidays. Sometimes being alone is a choice-family is too dysfunctional, or it can be about scarcity-there just isn’t enough money for you to travel to be with your family or friends. Either way you are alone and that can be a breakdown.

5: Anxiety/Depression

When one is challenged by anxiety and/or depression on a daily basis, the thought of the holidays can be an added stress. “How am I going to appear to be happy and loving when I wake up feeling impending doom or dread?” “What if I don’t get everything done because I can’t get out of bed?”” I feel like managing my mind is a full-time job and now I have to work overtime.” The stress of thinking about the holidays can upset the very carefully balanced scale.

6: Recovery

When you are in recovery from trauma/stress or any substance use disorder, you can be very vulnerable. Again, holidays can be a challenge for many reasons:

  1. Managing yourself around your triggers
  2. Managing yourself with your substances
  3. Feeling raw and vulnerable
  4. Being with people you might otherwise choose to avoid
  5. Needing time alone, for meetings, for your self- care
  6. Needing special requirements for your diet, exercise, self-care routine.

If your recovery is new and you are not ready to speak about your journey, the holidays present a stress. Speaking about why you don’t want to go home for the holidays or going home for the holidays are both stressful in different ways. This roadblock can be one of the most apparent challenges to having a holiday in recovery

7: Difficult Conversations

Families can have their own set of conversations which will erupt into screaming, name-calling, shaming, bullying, and disastrous moments for all, particularly vulnerable children. If the expectations are that everyone will be the same, like the same, want the same, and someone in the family violates that unwritten rule, we have a potential problem. The family may collude to never bring this conversation to the surface-unless someone has too much alcohol or comes home feeling fortified to take on the belief e.g. holidays and then the battle begins. When our community, state, and country are divided and we add that polarity to the already challenging family conversations, “Houston we have a problem.”Challenges to having a holiday in recovery

Strengthening Our Minds

These are just a few of the challenges to having a holiday in recovery that is helpful for sobriety. The solutions, which will all be in Part 2, have to do with our mind, our thoughts, our mental health. Our mind is very powerful. Our mind can work for us or against us. If we want to tackle the challenges of the holidays, we first have to strengthen our mind. Our mind is like a muscle and when we work it out every day, like a muscle it becomes stronger.

One of the best workouts for our mind is meditation. Begin a practice of meditation immediately. Meditate for 5 -10-15-20 minutes every day and when you need your mind to help you it will be ready. If you can’t sit and meditate do a walking meditation. Find a beautiful place to walk, quiet your mind and walk. Walk in a garden.  If you can’t do a walking meditation, meditate when you eat. Chew your food for 1-2-3-4-5 minutes with your mind quiet and focused.  Develop a yoga practice with particular focus being to also quiet your mind. Listen to beautiful music. Find the tool that best works for you to quiet your mind.

In Part 2 we will address specific actions you can take to use your strong mind to deal with all of the breakdowns we discussed. Remember that the challenges to having a holiday in recovery that helps your recovery can be overcome!

“Don’t trade your authenticity for approval.”

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