In our previous blog post we wrote about how the holiday season can be stressful for those in active addiction who may isolate from family or, alternatively, may regret their actions during family get togethers while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
This time of year can also bring extra stresses for those in early recovery. Examples of this stress include being emotionally triggered from unresolved family issues or from the presence of alcohol at holiday parties. Family members and closed loved ones elicit deep emotions, which are likely to come out during the holidays because of the frequency or duration of family time. These emotions can become further complicated when experienced in the presence of alcohol. Holidays often provide the first big test to those in recovery- testing their resolve to stay sober while experiencing strong emotions. This becomes an even bigger test when access to alcohol is thrown into the mix.
Another stress faced by those in early recovery are the expectations that abound, beginning with self-imposed expectations. Some may experience negative emotions and may get into their character defects when with family. This may be a departure from their normal sense of elation and being on the “pink cloud” of early recovery, so they may feel they have failed somewhat in their recovery process.
There are also the expectations of close family members and friends. Those newly sober feel that their parents or spouses expect them to be healed after addiction treatment and they grow worrisome at any sign of imperfection, like being in a bad mood. Their auto response is often concern that the recovering addict may be using again. Others may expect those in early recovery to apologize for their past actions because they have seen on TV, for example, that amends is part of recovery, even if the person is not ready to do the 9th step.
These are all variations on the same theme, that holidays provide challenges for those in early recovery in many forms. The positive element is that they are healthy challenges and getting through them sober strengthens one’s recovery and faith in the recovery process.
This is where true recovery begins, and the newly sober need to harness the tools they learned in treatment, including relapse prevention techniques and 12 step principals and fellowship to face their emotions and situations in stride with grace – realizing that is it progress, not perfection.