Breaking the Mold
While advertising campaigns and the media often portray the holiday season in the same merry ways every year, sometimes people in recovery feel there are more complications than joys during this time. They might find it challenging to talk with relatives about where they are in sobriety, or struggle with a sense of loss or loneliness.
Although particular holiday customs and traditions are exactly what many people look forward to during the winter festivities, it’s also fun to break the mold a bit.
Humans naturally thrive with rituals. In an article for Psychology Today, psychiatrist Abigail Brenner notes the acts of ritual that “mark ‘rites of passage’—major transitional turning points—and help us ‘connect the dots’ and find and define patterns and cycles in our lives that might otherwise seem random.” She stresses that ritual:
- Provides a bridge between “our inner and outer worlds, the profane and the sacred, the ordinary and the extraordinary.”
- Offers a connection to the seasons and the importance of evolution and change, and how we can use this awareness to take comfort in the “interconnectedness of all life.”
- Extends a “sense of renewal—a time to rest, replenish, and restore ourselves, allowing us to reevaluate our journey thus far and to reaffirm that the path we’re traveling is the right one for us.”
- Creates a sense of belonging, especially when we honor our past and present, and gather with people who respect our choices and continue to provide positive influence. This “enables us to access, honor, and strengthen our identity.”
So as you consider which holiday traditions matter most to you and in what other ways you’d like to celebrate during this time, these ritualistic points might be a compass for new direction.
Establishing New Traditions
How would you like to craft new holiday traditions? Here are some ideas.
If you need some reflective time:
- Plan a weekend desert retreat between late October and early January to allow introspective time for journaling, setting SMART goals, meditation, or simple rest.
- Write letters to people in your life who provided guidance and support and detail how these actions helped shape your new direction.
- Create a “thanks and gratitude” basket and at each social gathering. Give attendees slips of paper and ask them to write one or the other. Then, everyone draws slips from the basket at random and reads them aloud.
If you’re a sports fan:
- Plan to attend an annual college sports bowl game, regardless of the team, and travel with a couple of friends.
- Work with a local youth group to arrange a holiday park or activity center game. This gets you involved in the community and reinforces the kids’ healthy habits during their school breaks.
- Arrange a yearly friends and family football, softball, basketball, golf outing (even miniature golf!), or some other type of sporting event.
If you enjoy the arts:
- Volunteer at a local playhouse, civic center, festival, concert venue, or museum for major seasonal productions and exhibits.
- Create an annual friends and family holiday concert or improv comedy performance. Post an admission price of $1–$5 and donate the proceeds to charity.
- Start a new creative project on the first day of the year with the intention to complete it within a certain period of time.
If you’re interested in giving back:
- Gather some people for an annual holiday party assembly line to create gift bags of essential items to take to a homeless shelter. Bags might include soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, a washcloth and hand towel, feminine hygiene products, comb and brush, razors, lip balm, deodorant, new socks and underwear, baby wipes, and toilet paper.
- Provide staffing relief during the holidays at an animal shelter.
- Dedicate your time to a nonprofit during a major fundraising or awareness campaign, such as the Tucson Youth Development’s Annual Holiday Sharing Project or The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.
If you’re into fitness:
- Join a Tucson-based community event such as the wild Thanksgiving Cross Country Classic, the annual Vail Jingle Trail 5K and Santa’s Little Helper 1K, and other fall and winter local runs, walks, and races.
- Create a holiday challenge for yourself or a group of fitness pals, such as a special annual hike, a week visiting different yoga classes, or something completely new for the group, such as martial arts, Pound Fitness, dance classes, and circus arts.
- Set a New Year’s goal to explore fitness in a more dynamic way, such as participating in marathon, completing instructor training for your favorite activity, or joining a gym with a greater variety of classes.
If you need to let go and move on:
- Join with family members and friends—or make it more of a private exploration—to write regrets on pieces of paper and one by one, put them into the fireplace as a yearly “soul cleanse.”
- Embrace the concept of “out with the old and in with the new” by using the day after Christmas or New Year’s Day to rid yourself of items, clothing, and other material goods. Consider a service such as Freecycle to upcycle certain household goods, or donate gently-used clothing to the International Rescue Committee.
- Use a nature-based release ritual such as a walk through a forest or desert before a holiday gathering. Pick up a little sand or dirt to hold in your hand. As you slowly walk around, open your fingers a tiny bit, and mentally let go of resentments, grudges, and unresolved arguments as the earth slips away. When your hand is empty, allow this to be a sign that your heart is free of these obstacles as well.
Cottonwood Provides Tools of Support
With progressive therapy techniques and a comprehensive relapse prevention plan, many former residents of Cottonwood Tucson learn to handle the holidays in ways that create happy memories, a strong sense of belonging, and more meaningful holiday traditions and rituals. Find out how our professionals can help you, too.