The holiday season is a joyous, cheerful time for many. Not for everyone, though. In truth, for many on the path to recovery, the holidays can be a dark, depressing, and, oftentimes, regressive time of the year. From something as big as full-on seasonal affective disorder  to something as small as a simple case of the winter blues , it’s true that anyone — regardless of where they’re at on their journey to recovery — can feel this seasonal sadness in full force.
Not to mention, the holidays bring with them the temptation to fall back into old patterns. People are more stressed, there’s more to keep track of on the day-to-day, and it’s hard to keep up with all the commitments and the responsibilities of the holiday season. When all this weighs down on you, there’s a temptation to simply go back to what you’re used to. For many, this means going back to using substances. But it doesn’t have to be this way. This is why sober holiday activities are so important.
When the holidays roll around, research shows that some indulge in up to twice as many  substances as they do outside of the holiday months. However, there are ways to keep this from happening — twelve ways, in fact. The twelve days of recovery, listed below, include a dozen productive and healthy activities to help ensure a happy holiday for anyone on the path to recovery. Continue reading to see how.
The simple act of socializing and building a strong, close-knit community of supportive loved ones while in recovery is more important than words can even begin to describe. On the first day of the twelve days of recovery, challenge yourself to get in touch with someone you can share an emotional connection with. No matter if it’s someone from your recovery group, someone supportive from one of your social circles, or a loved one you can depend on, there’s immense power in picking up the phone and calling or arranging a meet up for coffee and simply connecting on an emotional level with someone else.
You don’t have to go above and beyond to have a simple get-together with a group of family or friends (or both!). On the second day of recovery, challenge yourself to bring together a group of close family or friends and just enjoy each other’s company for a bit. There’s strength in numbers — that’s not just an empty platitude. There truly is strength in bringing together a group of people who love and support you and surrounding yourself with their compassion and care for a bit.
There’s no question that the holiday season can be an incredibly lonesome time, and this is true regardless of whether someone is in recovery or not. On the third day of recovery, challenge yourself to compile a list of close contacts who you know you can get in touch at any time or from any place. When you need support, they can be there. When you need someone to talk to, they can be there. When you need someone to come get you, they can be there. The list doesn’t have to be pages long. In fact, even one name can be enough.
While it’s certainly important to keep yourself busy and attend holiday celebrations with friends and family during this time of year, it’s essential that you remember to use discretion when you’re RSVPing. After all, you can’t be everywhere at once, and overbooking yourself can lead to the exact kind of stress and anxiety you’re hoping to avoid. That’s why, on the fourth day of recovery, your challenge is to RSVP to the events and the celebrations with the people who mean the most to you and your path to recovery.
On the fifth day of recovery, it’s worth remembering that there’s no shame in leaving social gatherings early — especially if that social gathering proves to be especially triggering for you and your path to recovery. If you ever find yourself in that kind of scenario, never fear how you’ll be perceived if you need to leave. Make an excuse, say you have somewhere else to be, or simply say that it’s just time for you to go — there’s no shame in standing up for yourself and your recovery like this, and true friends and family will understand this.
On the sixth day of recovery — and the halfway point on this twelve-day journey — make a list of all the things that make you feel grateful. While some may roll their eyes when asked to say what they’re thankful for at the Thanksgiving dinner table, don’t forget that the ability to be grateful for where you’re at and how far you’ve come is a truly tremendous strength to possess. Write it down, make a mental note, tell someone, whatever you please — just remember to express your gratitude and never forget .
There’s nothing worse than boredom, especially when working on recovery. Boredom leads to a wandering mind, and a wandering mind sometimes leads to dwelling on negative or intrusive or reductive thoughts. One of the best ways to avoid this is by keeping busy with a hobby. A new one will work wonders, but even an old one can be just as useful. On the seventh day of recovery, choose a hobby — a book, a sport, a craft, or something else completely — and turn to that hobby whenever you need a mental break from boredom.
A lot of the stress that comes with the holiday season has to do with getting carried away. From the commitments you make to the events you have to attend to the gifts you still have to get… It can be a lot. There’s no shame in saying so. On the eighth day of recovery, give yourself a little leeway and remind yourself to take things one step at a time . Living in the moment is a powerful thing, and a useful tool for recovery.
Sobriety is no easy feat, and you know this better than anyone. Knowing what you do know, why not reach out to someone just beginning their journey to recovery for the ninth day of recovery? Your challenge: Remember your journey and the support you received to get where you are now, then get in touch with someone who is just starting out their recovery journey and give them the same kind of support that you relied on yourself. Not only will you feel good about supporting them, they’ll feel good knowing they have a support system, too.
Unfortunately, life before sobriety likely saw many personal relationships taking a hit as a result of your struggle with addiction. At the holiday season, these old rifts can be felt more prominently than ever. On the eleventh day of recovery, consider reconnecting with someone who has been hurt in the past and work to repair that old hurt . An apology can do wonders in situations like these, and oftentimes, an “I’m sorry” can mean more to someone than any gift you could buy.
After Christmas comes the new year, a time for many to take a look back at their lives and a look forward to the future and make goals for the coming year. On the eleventh day of recovery, it’s important for you to reflect on your personal journey to recovery and congratulate yourself for how far you’ve been and where you’ll go from here. From the dark times in your past to the hope the future holds, there’s power in this reflection and goal-setting activity.
Last, but certainly not least, comes the twelfth day of recovery: knowing that you are truly loved and that you have people who care for you. No matter how lonesome you may feel, how hard you’ve had to work to get to where you are today, or how strong you’ll have to remain to stay on the path to sobriety, there are people — whether it be friends, family, or sponsors — who love you and want to see you succeed. Don’t forget this, holiday season or otherwise.
Recovery is a serious and brave thing to commit to, regardless of what time of year it is. Whether you’re sober and in recovery or still struggling with addiction and hoping to seek treatment, Transformations at Mending Fences can help. Transformations at Mending Fences is a mental health and substance abuse treatment center with national accreditation and licensure. Transformations at Mending Fences offers residential treatment, treating adults 18 years of age and older who are struggling with primary mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders. For more information, contact us today .