“If you need booze or drugs to enjoy your life to the fullest, then you’re doing it wrong.” – Robin Williams
What happens when you bottom out during the “most joyful” time of year and end up in rehab over Christmas and New Year? Let someone who’s been there tell you.
It’s no big revelation to say that the holidays can suck—and that being around family only makes it worse. I have never liked anything about the month of December. It’s cold, dark, wet, and a perfect time for Christmas… don’t get me started on New Years.
I remember sitting in an ugly straight back wooden chair watching the ball drop on TV one new year’s eve from rehab. It was one of life’s lowest moments. Just like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind, I made my proclamation that “as God as my witness, I would never go to rehab again!”.
Fast forward 365 days and I was in the same chair at the same rehab center watching the ball drop on the same TV. Wow! Something wasn’t working here…
The thought of going through the holidays without drugs or alcohol was unfathomable to me. I simply couldn’t do it. I knew it… my family knew it… everyone knew it. For years, my mother kept a holiday journal outlining what happened in the family throughout the year. The entry about me never wavered… “Rob’s problem continues” or “Rob was hospitalized again for his problem.” I hated that book… I hated those stupid sweaters… I hated the holidays… I hated my life!
Most of us want to spend time with family over Christmas, and usually, that’s fine. But Christmas can put us under a lot of pressure and for people who are just out of rehab, who are in early recovery, it can be daunting. They tend to feel raw and vulnerable, and if the family is not supportive, their recovery can be threatened. There could be a risk of relapse.
The bottom line is that Christmas is just another day, and there are plenty of things that alcoholics/addicts in recovery can do. We need to be aware of these pressures and plan accordingly: Where are you going to be on Christmas day? If there are family tensions, do you have an escape plan? Have you sorted out the transport? Have you discussed this with your therapist, sponsor, mentor or friend in recovery? And don’t leave it until the last minute.
Remember… do what you have to do to remain happy, sober and free…
A lot of self-help groups organize sober-parties, day-long events and dances at Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The important thing is not to be alone and to share some of this free time with other like-minded people. Part of the planning process should involve checking with your local self-help groups and seeing what’s on at Christmas and New Year — and making the arrangements in advance.
It might also work better for the first couple of holiday seasons to limit yourself to events where the other attendees will also be sober. This is why some people in recovery tend to socialize with other people in the same situation. With care, you’re going to be sober for a very long time, so missing a few holiday parties may be the best way to preserve your sobriety in the early days.
The only thing you have to do this Christmas is find the happiness you deserve.
This is my journey… this is my life.