Going to see family around the holidays can bring out the most challenging emotions for people. It is a great time of celebration, but it is also challenging in many ways. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years can be daunting to face when sober. That first holiday sober can be especially difficult, especially if others may trigger difficult emotions or are not sober themselves. Find out why grief before, during, and after the holidays is perfectly normal in recovery, but there are some positive ways to cope.
Walking Through Loss
As people get older, they attend more funerals. If they are lucky, they don’t go to funerals for younger people, but it can (and does) happen, especially for people who deal with addiction. They face death quite a lot, in fact, they may have faced it themselves. There is particular grief around actual loss, perceived or emotional loss, and the loss of the life that a person knew when they were addicted. They lose friends and loved ones, sometimes forever. They may be alive but not in their life. They may not have survived addiction. So much grief makes the holidays a difficult time. This can start before, during, or after the holidays. It can be a big trigger to want to return to using substances as a means of coping.
In religion or faith-based practices, there is a ritual that helps people name where they are, their feelings, and how to experience the holidays. Ritual is ingrained in people, regardless of religion, due to how people are created. Their circadian rhythms are just one way they are created out of ritual. This is focused on how the body goes to sleep and wakes up. When it does not happen in a certain rhythm, it changes how a person feels (sleepy, lethargic, brain fog). Creating rituals around grief can be helpful as a rhythm to cope more effectively. This might include:
- Getting up every day to do mindfulness practices
- Going to bed at the same time every night or using mindfulness to focus intention
- Gratitude lists that can help a person be creative, outline what they’re thankful for, and share thoughts that are positive
- Journaling that writes out thoughts and helps a person navigate their feelings
Grief can be overwhelming before, during, and after they are over. If grief feels heavy, it can help to serve others. Go out and find a place to give back to people in need. Some places that need help might include:
- Animal shelters
- Homeless shelter
- Toys for kids organizations
- Women’s shelters
- Senior living homes
- Food pantries
The biggest thing to keep in mind is the self-care rituals matter. Meet with a mentor, accountability partner, or sponsor. Talk to them throughout the holiday and let them know you are struggling. Seek out professional help and ask for their assistance in dealing with the challenges. When a person struggles to cope with loss, think about how to handle it in a way that will feel healthier than turning back to substances. Don’t isolate and make sure to go to meetings. Continue seeking out others to find help in coping with difficult emotions. They will pass, and get easier over time, but lean into them, embrace them, and learn to find a way through rather than over them without coping properly.
Oceanfront understands coping with grief and loss is part of the challenge of recovery. We hope you will find solace in knowing we are here to help you navigate the challenges effectively. We will give you tools and resources to cope so you stay sober and clean. We are located in beautiful Laguna Beach. Call us to find out how we can help you navigate addiction recovery: 888-981-4295