‘I dread the holiday time of year‘ is a statement shared by many with sadness, yet complete honesty. Even though most people long for the warm feelings evoked by images on Christmas greeting cards of ‘roasted chestnuts and open fires‘ shared with loved ones, many find this happy and loving picture far from their reality. They feel overwhelmed by the prospect of obligatory gift buying, feigned merriment at parties they’d rather not be at, frantic eating, and nostalgia from memories of times past with people who, for various reasons, are no longer part of their holidays. And sadly, many in recovery experience a destructive relapse.
Here are 5 tips for working your recovery during the holidays:
- Have realistic expectations about the holidays.
The media promotes movies and pictures showing extravagant presents underneath the tree being opened by families looking ecstatic about their perfect gifts. But what they don’t show are the worried faces of people wondering how they’ll pay off the debt when their credit card bill comes in the mail.
- Remember what really matters.
Don’t confuse giving love with giving gifts. Although gifts can be an expression of your love, so are your time, affection, words of affirmation, and your willingness to forgive an offense. Decide on a budget and invite someone to hold you accountable for keeping it.
- Be a good steward of your time and energy.
You don’t have to go to a party just because you were invited. Even Jesus knew He had to retreat from the clamor of the crowds for quiet times with His Father to renew His strength. Pace yourself and find the balance between togetherness and separateness. Also, understand your personality to know if you are the type who is energized by a party or drained by the demands of interacting. Discover and do more activities that nourish rather than deplete your soul. When you take care of yourself, you remind yourself that you are worth caring for.
- Don’t confuse receiving love with eating food that you love.
Holidays don’t need to be a time to binge on food. Learn how to celebrate Christ’s birthday in other ways. Although you can grant yourself the freedom to eat without guilt, you can also make the day special by playing games with your friends, attending church, singing, praying together, or serving the less fortunate together. Remember that it’s creating and sharing positive memories together that are important. When you ‘numb yourself out’ by overeating, it’s difficult to feel the subtle but tender moments of being in the presence of those that you love — and you may leave the encounter feeling physically stuffed but emotionally empty.
- Don’t let fond memories of past holidays sabotage your enjoyment of the present by comparing then with now.
Although you may realize that loss is inevitable, there will always be those moments of happiness and special meaning that can never be recreated because certain people are no longer part of your life. But your sadness is no less genuine. Give yourself permission to grieve ‘what was’, but be careful not to warp the past into a time so perfect and flawless that it can never be achieved in the moment. Sometimes when we recall past favorite holiday seasons, we see our significant loved ones giving us what we always dreamed of instead of what actually was. We can only begin to accept our losses when we honestly evaluate the people we loved who are gone for who they were — both their good and their bad.
It helps to remember that all of us are part of broken humanity in need of God’s redemptive love, and that sorrow is part of living — even in the midst of the season to be jolly!
If you’re needing additional help resources for your recovery during this holiday season, or know someone who does, we can help! Call us at 800-NEW-LIFE (639- 5433).