Content reviewed by Christian Losch, LCSW, LCADC, CEO of Pinelands

Despite the explosive excitement and cheer the holiday traditions may bring for many, others may find that this season can cause confusing feelings and struggles. Individuals in addiction recovery may face various scenarios in which they are put face-to-face with temptations, painful memories, or unfamiliar circumstances. Even though these seasonal traditions can cause much stress, there are many ways to work through these feelings and begin finding enjoyment in the holiday season.

It is alright if you don’t necessarily feel the holiday cheer.

Those in addiction recovery may feel pressured to feel a certain way during the holiday season because society pushes the idea that one should primarily feel positive and pleasant feelings during the holidays. However, it is completely normal to experience more complicated emotions during this season.

Many people may get invited to holiday parties by friends or loved ones. Although exciting, these parties may include the consumption of drugs or alcohol. Situations like this place sober individuals in troubling positions because they may want to spend time with loved ones yet feel hesitant about being around addictive substances.

This time of the year may spark troubling memories for some individuals. Perhaps past holiday seasons are painful for some to look back on because they were not yet sober. Maybe some individuals were not there for loved ones in the way they wished they could have been. Whatever the circumstance, holidays are not always filled with happy feelings, which is entirely normal. However, it is important for individuals to accept their feelings and allow them to be felt without judgment in order to move forward.

There are many unique ways to celebrate.

Although common ways of celebrating the holiday season may not work for some individuals, there are different and unique ways to find joy in a way that does not involve substances. Some of these options could include the following activities:

  • Bake new holiday treats with friends or family. The process of picking out which treats look fun and tasty can be the beginning of this enjoyable activity. After deciding which treat to make, everyone can go out and gather the necessary ingredients and any fun decorations such as colored icing, sprinkles or other embellishments. Then everyone can begin the baking process while perhaps listening to some entertaining music or movies (whether they be holiday-related or not). Not only can this be a great way to bond with others, but it can also allow everyone to exercise their creativity.
  • Paint or draw a winter scene. Even if a person does not consider themselves skilled with drawing or painting, this does not mean that they cannot find enjoyment in this activity. By going outside and seeing a beautiful winter scene, one can appreciate the subtleties of the season in a new and gratifying way. Perhaps an individual decides to sketch a scene with a cat sitting in the window across from their building. Another scenario might be a painting of an area featuring snowy evergreen trees. There is so much beauty to experience this season, and stopping to draw or paint these things can be a great way to fully appreciate it.
  • Make a sober-winter calendar. Similar to popular advent calendars, one can create their own sober-winter-themed calendar featuring a count down to the end of December (or however long they so choose). For each day of the count down, one can fill each box or container with chocolates, candy, mints, or whatever else may seem desirable. Rather than having this calendar reflect typical holiday themes, one can design it to appear however they deem pleasing. The theme could interpret their favorite movies, artists or simply serve as an artistic outlet. This can be a fun and light-hearted way to look forward to each day of the month while also getting to make a creative, new calendar for the season or month.
  • Begin a winter wake-up routine to start the day. Many find it difficult to wake up and start their days amid the cold and dark weather during the winter season. In this case, creating a morning routine that caters specifically to the winter season can be a great way to start the day. Such a routine could include making hot tea or coffee, lighting candles or incense, doing some light stretching while wearing warm, comfortable clothes and even listening to music or nature sounds as well. By incorporating tastes, smells and movement, one’s body will feel refreshed and ready for the day ahead of them, even during the cold months.

Although the typical holiday traditions may bring many people joy, those in addiction recovery may feel otherwise. It is not uncommon to experience many complicated, unnerving feelings due to these traditional ways of celebrating the season. While these feelings are normal, it does not mean that finding joy during this season is impossible. Through unique activities such as baking with friends or family, painting or drawing a winter scene, creating a sober-winter calendar and beginning a winter wake-up routine, you can start finding joyfulness despite these other painful feelings. Despite helpful solutions, it is possible that you may need extra help during this time. At Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford, we can give you the assistance you may need during this challenging season. Through our diverse care options (including commitment therapy, family behavior therapy and more), we can help ensure that you can find plenty of joy throughout your life, no matter the season. Call today at (877) 557-5372.