Let Gratitude Be Your Guide To A Safe And Sober Holiday in Early Recovery

Is it you or just me but does it seem after Halloween passes New Year's Eve is upon me in a blink of an eye.

The holidays can create havoc on your recovery.

With time appearing to move so quickly it's possible that your recovery plan can be put on the back burner.

During these months old feelings and past behaviors start to rent space in the recesses of your mind.

When this happens, irrational thoughts can go unchecked causing you to be susceptible to triggers and cravings for drugs or alcohol.

This is one reason for the holidays being a difficult time in early recovery.

Reminiscing about old friends, recent actions, and shortcomings, can create a feeling of grief causing you to want to escape.

Even worse a tinge of jealousy might linger inside you - you might have to participate in parties where alcohol and drugs will be present, and you fear you won't know how to act.

Early recovery is a fragile time, so you should not take the holidays lightly.

in the months following Halloween, it is vital to add an extra defense and security into your plan for recovery. Christmas and the New Year’s celebrations do not have to threaten your serenity, you can use gratitude to help you stay safe and sober.

If you’ve been following our sober living blog you know how important we feel gratitude is to a rewarding life in recovery. Viewing your recovery and rejoicing life as a gift let’s you live life with the virtues of good moral character.

How you can let gratitude be your tool to stay sober during the holidays

1 - Morning reflection

Each morning when you wake, take the time to reflect on what you are grateful for. I do this before I get out of bed. I send a quick offering of thanks and grace for whomever or whatever comes to mind. Let your mind wonder about all the good in your life. Then reflect upon who helped make this possible.

Even the cup of coffee you made for yourself this morning was provided to you by many others: those who grew, picked, prepared, packaged, and sold you the beans to the devices you used to extract the fantastic taste and experience the eye-opening goodness of that first cup of coffee.

In recovery, you can always find someone standing behind you who is making all of it possible. Take time to "dive deeper" in your morning reflections of gratitude, and you'll experience the spirit of the holidays throughout each day.

2 - Give thanks to the investments others give to make your recovery possible for you

In your active addiction, you pushed many who cared about you from your side. Now is your time to let each loving family member and friend know how you appreciate them.

Take the time to write a letter of thanks. Illustrate how necessary their actions of care and support are to your recovery process. Thank them for love bestowed upon you. Write from your heart and go deep. Don't just thank them for being there to help you through the first few days, months or years in recovery. Break down all the time each one has spent on you.

For example, maybe your brother has been there since you left treatment. He drives you to a meeting every day. If he has done this for a month, he is giving you his time so you can make the connections needed for a long-term sustained recovery.

The time he puts into your recovery adds up quickly. For instance, add up the time: if the ride takes 15 minutes to get to and from an hour-long meeting, and you show up 20 minutes early and leave 15 minutes after the meeting your brother is investing 125 minutes of his time. If he has done this for 30 days, it is 3750 minutes that you might be taking for granted. This doesn’t take into account additional meetings you are attending due to it being the holiday season.

He is making your recovery possible, so take the time to express gratitude during the 30 minutes you spend in the car on your way to the meeting.

3- Express gratitude by journaling

Over the last few weeks, I have let gratitude fill my heart. I started keeping a gratitude journal to help reflect on all the gifts I receive daily. Whenever I find a spare moment of time, I take out my phone, open notes, and express gratitude for the events of my day.

Instead of getting upset that the checkout line is a mile long, you missed the train, the store you are in doesn’t have what you are looking for pull out your device or carry a small pocket-sized notebook and journal about gratitude.

When you take the time to recognize all you have to be grateful for it's hard to feel regret, jealousy, envy, or sorrow. Not only do you not feel poorly, but you also begin to seek ways to give back to those who make everything you possible in your life. You know the doorman in your building, the super, the postman, newspaper carrier, the list can go on and on.

In recovery, many are working to help you proceed with a safe and comfortable transition. Take your recovery coach out to lunch, send a card with a letter attached giving thanks to all the support, advice, and recovery coaching he or she has given you.

Start recognizing all of these people in your gratitude journal. Consciously think about them and what they do for you.

4 - Serve others with gratitude

Give back to the community you live in. There is always something more you can be doing for others. If you reside in a sober living home take a moment to show your thanks to the group of guys who have become your support system.

There are many ways you can be of service to your sober living home. You can help the chef prepare food, go shopping, decorate for the holidays, clean, shovel, do laundry, be there to listen and offer suggestions. Learn to acknowledge all the little things which have made your life better since coming to reside in a sober living house. Be creative in expressing gratitude.

It feels good to smile and acknowledge others, and it makes their day better. Take some time out of your day to speak at a meeting, inpatient/outpatient treatment program, or detox facility. Help out at a soup kitchen, thrift store, needle exchange, or clinic. The list of places to serve is endless, and in doing this, you will reduce the stress the holidays might be causing you in early recovery.

5 - Stay true to the meaning for the holidays

The holidays are about gratitude. Showing and giving your thanks to the people who positively affect your life, your higher power, the Earth and the universe. You might not feel like you can give to others because of the financial burden your addiction, but you can always give. Freely giving a warm smile and a kind word to others goes a long way.

Gratitude is a powerful tool in recovery. Taking time to express this warmth to others has many benefits. Use this time to openly share your gratitude with others and rejoice in the spirit of the holidays. Stay close to the ones you know and love. Those who have to support your recovery.

Here at The Lighthouse Sober Living Recovery Coaching 365 Program we recognize and celebrate your hard work towards addiction recovery. We are grateful to serve the recovery community in Fairfield Connecticut and the Tri-State area. Our alumni can always count on our support by staying connected with The Lighthouse Team. If this is your first holiday season in early recovery use gratitude as your guide to celebrating the holidays safely.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, this holiday season, is interested in sober living in Connecticut, or recovery coaching in New York City and Connecticut - contact us today for help.

To further this discussion on gratitude as a guide for a safe and sober 2018 holiday season head over to LinkedIn or Facebook.

Have a safe and sober holiday and thank you for supporting, reading, and commenting on The Lighthouse Sober Living Recovery 365 blog.

John MakohenGratitude