Recovery During the Holidays

by Kay Sheppard, LMHC, CEDS

During the holiday season attendance falls off in recovery meetings and our recovering friends start to disappear. Some of these disappearances are long-term and some permanent. What happens during the holidays? Increased stress is certainly a complicating factor in holiday activities. There is more pressure, date books are fuller, “to do lists” become longer, and all together, these are busy times.

During these fast-paced times it is tempting to start canceling meetings, forgetting phone calls and postponing Step work until after the holidays. After all, isn’t this the reason that we recover, to enjoy life? The temptation is to take a holiday from recovery. We have to be vigilant about this kind of complacency and overconfidence. Whatever the excuse for letting up on recovery activities, the “24 hour principle” of  recovery still applies. We must remember that we cannot stay abstinent on yesterday’s program. It is crucial to recovery to maintain our program and to maintain the “7-24” concept — we work our programs 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Each holiday is nothing more than another 24 hour time frame which requires our attention as recovering people.

What is your best recovery program?  
Before the holidays become frantic, it would be a good idea to outline your “best
recovery” program. Formulate a checklist based on those activities which best support your recovery. This checklist might include the optimum number of meetings to attend, a commitment to daily phone calls, reading, writing, prayer and meditation.  It might look something like this:

Nightly Inventory Checklist
Phoned sponsor ___
Attended meeting ___
Exercised ___ hour
Journal writing
Gratitude list
Meditation ___ times
Literature selection (identify selection)
Food plan:
* Planned
* Reported
* Committed
* Let go
* No changes
* Weigh and measure all portions
Two phone calls to ___ and ___

One of the obvious pitfalls of the holiday season is the abundance of tempting food and drink. Magazine covers display the foods which will trigger our addiction and our life of horror in innocent and gorgeous splendor. The whole world has missed the idea that those foods should be photographed with a skull-and-crossbones “poison” label. For those of us who are predisposed to addiction, those holiday foods are particularly devastating. Of course, there are always those folks who are urging us to eat “just a little” of those foods, too. Or worse yet, there are others who offer to prepare abstinent food for us. Then we show up for dinner to find nothing for us to eat. Some hostesses even lie about the ingredients, thinking they can “put one over on us.” The best way to maintain abstinence throughout the holiday orgy of addictive substances is to eliminate and restrict the number of occasions attended, to show up prepared with our own food, or to eat before the party.

The bottom line is that I am always responsible for my own recovery. I am always responsible for the food I eat. And I have to understand that they don’t understand the importance of physical abstinence.

Let us pray that all of us will be guided in recovery through the holidays, making them holy days of  joy and peace.