Many people are familiar with the Christmas carol, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and the song rings true around the holidays for many of those people. However, this is not the case with everyone. For some individuals, Christmas and the broader holidays can be a taxing time. This can be especially true for individuals who are now in recovery. The truth is that certain times of the year can rub people in recovery a little raw because they may have some traumatic memories and experiences associated with them. But there are ways to manage these times, including how to navigate Christmas in recovery.

It’s Christmas and I Want to Celebrate, Now What?

Regarding recovery, there is something commonly referred to as “sober reference.” What this means is that the longer that we are in recovery, the more experience and knowledge we gain regarding living life in sobriety. Now, this can be highly beneficial because it helps us to understand what works in situations and, perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t work in certain situations. This includes the first time we navigate Christmas in recovery.

So, the first time we must navigate Christmas in recovery, we are going into it without any sober reference. This is when it becomes crucial to rely on others who have their own accumulated sober reference. These people can be found in certain recovery communities (such as 12-Step groups), or these relationships can be made in alumni groups from the recovery center we attended. Most likely, these individuals will have a healthy list of “do’s and don’ts” regarding staying recovered during the holiday season.

How to Navigate Christmas in Recovery

Now, while different people are going to have different experiences and different types of advice, there are some universal concepts and tips that can be utilized to navigate Christmas in recovery. The first piece of advice has to do with the concept of “people, places, and things.”

“People, places, and things” has to do with the three major categories that can be triggering for those of us in recovery. These triggers also exist during the holiday season, even if they do look a little different wrapped up in holiday garb. 

For example, if we end up at a holiday party in a place that is potentially treacherous for our sobriety, it may be wise to consider whether it is worth sticking around. Many of us go home during the holidays, and this can mean meeting up with old classmates at local bars for holiday get-togethers. If being in a bar is triggering, is that holiday party worth a potential relapse? Probably not. Instead, perhaps decline that invitation and instead offer to meet up for coffee with everyone the following morning.

Christmas in Recovery: Knowing When to Stay and When to Go

Now, going off of the same example of meeting old friends at our hometown hang for the holidays; what if we choose to attend the event? After all, in early recovery, we are building sober reference. It may turn out to be fine and nothing upsetting or triggering occurs.

But, what if triggers come up and we start to feel uncomfortable? This discomfort can be very dangerous for someone in recovery. Also, this is when understanding that, in recovery, we have total autonomy to do whatever is best for us and our sobriety. This includes exiting whenever we deem it to make sense.

Sometimes, it feels like we have to come up with some kind of excuse to leave an event or a party. The truth is that this is not the case. A simple, “I must be going,” will suffice. However, if it would feel more comfortable to have an “exit phrase,” there are many that fit the holiday season. Some examples include, “I must be going; I have an early day of Christmas shopping tomorrow,” and “I have family coming into town for the holidays tomorrow and I have to prepare.” We must also remember, that it is okay to say that we are in recovery right from the beginning.

Clearview Girls Academy: Here to Help During the Holidays

One interesting aspect of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is that there are zero references to drinking in it. But, there are “parties for hosting,” “marshmallows for toasting,” and “caroling out in the snow.”  

Here at Clearview Girls Academy, we understand that the holidays can be a tense time for those of us in recovery. That is why we will always be here to help our current students and alumni navigate Christmas in recovery.

While Christmas can bring up a lot of emotions for anyone, it can be particularly emotional for adolescents in recovery. However, many resources, tips, and tools can help those in recovery get through the difficulties they may face around the holidays. Knowing what to do if/when they feel discouraged, such as reaching out to a recovery peer, pausing and taking a breath, and feeling free to leave any situation that they may feel uncomfortable in, can go a long way. If you feel like you or a loved one may be struggling in their recovery, we can help. For more information, please reach out to Clearview Girls Academy today at (888) 796-5484.