Socks in front of Christmas tree

Joy in Recovery: Building Better Holiday Traditions

The spirit of the holiday season can often bring great stress and worry to people in early recovery and their families. Fear of relapse and seasonal stressors can produce a dark cloud that lingers over what should be the most wonderful time of the year.

Rather than venture into the season fearful of the outcomes, embrace the opportunity to create new, more meaningful traditions that reveal the true joy that recovery can bring – not in spite of sobriety but because of it.

Express Gratitude Together

One of the most powerful things about recovery is the moments when we rediscover and appreciate the simple joys in life. The holidays are full of these simple joys. Playing board games in front of the fire, a walk in the chilly air with a loved one, fresh hot coffee and Christmas cookies, warm hugs that last an extra beat…all of these experiences have so much more meaning and appreciation by loved ones in recovery and their families and friends. We truly live in the moment, a benefit of active gratitude.  The spirit of the holidays – the merriment and good cheer found in random strangers and the closest of friends and family, or “the spirit of the season” – can be contagious. Actively embrace and engage in the most wonderful time of year by practicing gratitude throughout each day, including thankfulness for sobriety and experiencing the holidays in good health. Bringing gratitude into practice as a family in recovery can be an incredibly powerful experience, especially during the holidays. The gratitude of being together again after a loved one finds recovery is truly the greatest gift and can inflect joy, inspiration and appreciation into all of our holiday traditions.

Get Active

Release the stress and worry through some good old-fashioned family fun. Setup a Family Game Day, with a round or two of flag football, snowball fights or Nerf battle in the woods, ice skating or sledding, and finish the day with Family Game Night including epic rounds of your favorite board games. Think of the day as your Holiday Olympics. For extra fun, have a creative family member craft a homemade trophy that can be passed onto next year’s winner or simply award bragging rights until next year.

Be Creative

Healthy new holiday traditions can also include expressing your creativity. From crafting new decorations to perfecting new recipes, holiday traditions can engage and develop new talents and hobbies. Countless seasonal DIY projects can yield beautiful indoor and outdoor décor and many can serve as the perfect gift. Last year, our family exchanged handmade gifts instead of running up our credit cards, saving ourselves post-holiday stress over finances and focusing instead on spending time together and marveling at each other’s creative talents.

Spread the Cheer

It is better to give than receive. The holidays actually offer the perfect time of year for those in recovery to put their step work into action. Including loved ones in the process can create meaningful holiday memories and launch a new tradition for everyone in the family to spread cheer in a meaningful way. Volunteer at the local food bank or homeless shelter, offer to serve at your local AA meeting, donate gifts to charitable organizations or even adopt a family for Christmas. Such efforts truly embrace the spirit of the season and create a lovely holiday tradition inspired by your recovery.

This season, do not fear relapse; empower your recovery by being actively engaged in the holidays.  Embrace the season with new traditions that strengthen your sobriety, inspire your family and friends and embrace the true joy of recovery.