It is easy to get caught up in the holiday season. Nostalgia and the focus on beautiful family moments can trigger feelings of loneliness and regret if you are not able to be with your family this season. Many spend time thinking about the past – lamenting both the good times and the bad – rather than enjoying where they are and what they are doing now.
As the new year approaches, the focus often shifts forward to where you are going rather than where you have been. With big plans and ideas for what to do and how to make things better, many spend a lot of time “future tripping” rather than just being here now.
Unfortunately, both of these holiday mind trips can be a trigger for relapse for those who are in recovery. So, with the pull from the past and the tug forward from the future, how can you learn how to love the present moment and really get the most out of the holidays this year in recovery?
Here are a few tips to help you stay grounded, focused, and living positively in the now:
- Know that all you have is this moment. The past, though behind you and done, can change over time. Your perception will alter, shift, and color the events differently this year compared to next year and the next. It is a normal process, but it is one that makes it impossible to take ownership of the past. Similarly, the future is a fluid vessel as well. You cannot nail it down because you do not know what will happen to influence your choices in the coming days and months. What you do know is that you are here right now, you are sober, and you have the choice to embrace this very moment and the people you are sharing it with, or change the details so you feel comfortable and peaceful in this present time.
- If you cannot let go of the past, choose a positive memory. If you find that you are “in your head” so much that it is painfully difficult to pull yourself out of the memories, actively choose a moment in time that you felt celebrated, important, accomplished, and peaceful, and replay it – and all the feelings that come with it – over and over again.
- Practice mindfulness. Finding it difficult to let go of the past or to stop “future tripping” does not let you off the hook. Being present and in the moment is a skill you can hone with practice, and one of the best ways to do this is via mindfulness. You can do this with a mindful meditation, through active listening, through allowing thoughts to pass without notice and choosing instead to focus on the way the breeze feels on your skin, the smells around you, and the tiny details in your environment you might otherwise overlook.
- Focus on your love or empathy for someone or something. Is there a family member or close friend whom you love more than anything? Do you find that your heart is drawn to people who are struggling due to illness, homelessness, or persecution? Whatever or whoever fills your heart, choose to focus on nothing but the great love or empathy you feel for them and allow it to engulf your attention.
- Create your peaceful place. If there is somewhere you have been that always makes you feel instantly calm or somewhere you imagine to be a peaceful and relaxing place, conjure up a mental image and dwell there for a time. Notice the smells, the sounds, the details of how your feet feel on the ground, what is in your hands, and whether it is warm or cool, quiet or noisy. Enjoy being here.
When the Holidays Get to You
It is normal to have rough patches during the holidays, especially if this is your first sober holiday season. Take the time to regularly check in with yourself emotionally and notice if you are starting to feel uncomfortable. Choose to change that feeling by practicing one of the activities above. Every time you start to feel yourself go off course, take a break again and do a positivity practice until you feel better or until you can connect with someone who can talk you through until you feel strong enough to stay sober.
How do you keep your spirits up during the holidays in recovery?