The invitations are coming in. It’s that time of year where the assumption that social gatherings are wanted, needed and even required to have a ‘jolly’ holiday season. Most people don’t consider what parties and events mean for those of us in recovery. While it’s understood that feeling connected to community is key to recovery, celebrating by making small talk, swishing cocktails and gift giving is not. In fact, it feels more like offering a ticking bomb than an invitation to be loved. How we choose to navigate these next few weeks can be empowering or a reason to stumble, and once again as always, we get to choose.
According to Dr. Carolyn Nesbitt, a psychotherapist with over twenty years of practice within the Satir model, one that honours the ‘coping’ aspects of addiction in order to get to the root cause so as to invite transformation at our spiritual core rather than re-wounding ourselves with guilt and shame, Dr. Nesbitt reminds us that truly experiencing a ‘choice’ requires being given options to select from rather than two. Two = dilemma. Three = choice.
What does that mean for you this festive season?
As you step into the busy-ness of it all, consider starting with the end in mind by asking yourself “How do I want to feel come January 2nd when all of the parties and social gatherings are over?” and then give yourself three options to help you really, authentically have a choice. Here are some suggestions:
Choice #1 – I want to feel proud of myself for honouring my recovery.
Choice #2 – I want to re-write the holiday story that runs in my head every year.
Choice #3 – I want to feel peaceful.
Or perhaps you might need to be more direct with more tangible choices like:
Choice #1 – I will repeat my personal recovery affirmation everyday until January 2nd so I can stay centred and on purpose. (see tips below for a personal recovery affirmation).
Choice #2 – I will have a quiet and peaceful season by not going to any parties at all.
Choice #3 – I will go to one party this holiday season and I’m bringing a friend to help me honour where I am in my recovery.
Wherever you are in your personal journey, this holiday season doesn’t need to be in charge of you. By deciding a clear and self-honouring intention to anchor you over the next few weeks, you are creating a living, breathing, and flexible container for the entire season. Your choice of intention becomes your lighthouse in the fog. It shows you the way as you steer your ship. Something to consider as you’re drafting your choices is to remember that ‘should’ statements can be a trap. While “I should not go to any holiday parties this year” may protect you today (and let’s be honest, there’s power in that too), it will not protect you from tomorrow because SHOULD statements are not embodied or personally ‘owned’ and therefore, just like masking tape on a wet surface, they doesn’t stick.
To party or not to party? How do you get through this holiday season in a way that honours your recovery? The suggestion is to give yourself the choice of three honest and possible intentions and then let yourself choose ONE to be your guide. When deciding, listen for the one that feels the most peaceful to you. It will present itself to you when it’s aligned with your head (logic), heart (feelings), and your spirit (inner wisdom or gut feeling). That said, if all of that seems far too complex to take on, then consider starting here: simply create an intention for the holidays that feels peaceful. Begin there and let that be your holiday anchor, or light house, or fog horn in the distance keeping you safe from harm.
If you like the idea of a holiday affirmation, here is how to create one:
- Keep it in the present time by avoiding words like “will”, or “plan to” etc… as they are in the future and will feel like wishful thinking instead of true. E.G. I stand in my recovery this holiday season.
- Keep it short so you can repeat it easily should harder feelings or cravings come up. E.G. I am peaceful today and I honour myself and my body always.
- Focus on ONE thing, or if you must have two, keep the message clear and concise. E.G. I take care of myself by being mindful and I practice being honest with myself every day.
- Always be kind to yourself by avoiding ‘no’ or ‘not’ statements. E.G. instead of “I am not alone”, consider “I am always loved and supported”.
This holiday season doesn’t need to threaten your recovery. You can set your course by making an embodied decision based on personal choice, and when you add an anchored thought or mantra as a positive affirmation, you are well on your way to answering the bigger question of: To party, or not to party.
Recovery is a personal journey, and within you is the courage to truly choose what happens next.