Happy Holidays: Building Sober Traditions To Last A Lifetime

There are a lot of Christmas and holiday traditions that don't involve alcohol that you can partake in while in recovery. Traditions, even though they are 'age-old', we don't have to stick so closely to them. Why not forge your own path? I know, most everyone has their routines or are trying to establish their own traditions as adults, which led me to think: we can do the same thing in recovery?

Why shouldn't we start making our own traditions to support our new booze-free lifestyle?

Around the same time, I found a life-altering book. Check it out in my Virtual Bookshelf, Get Over It! by Iyanla Vanzant. The book talks about memories and how your brain's filing system works. Vanzant describes the human mind to be much like a computer; imagine opening your computer brain to see assorted desktop files.

-for the purpose of this blog, let's say one entire file is called Urge to Drink. Situations arise in your life. Situations that are similar instances and therefore get grouped together in a file. When you encounter a situation, 'similar' to one you have already experienced, this signals a trigger.

In the same way, you will encounter similar scenarios, much like you found yourself facing in your addiction. Thus 'triggering' the urge to drink as you save "new" data here. (In order to deal with these triggers see a few of my other blogs, such as Taking Therapy Seriously, because this file system in your brain needs to be disassembled properly.)

To break the cycle, we need to introduce new situations, that will be filed differently. Soon this file begins to fill up with new experiences and becomes the default save option for your memories.

Here are some old and new holiday traditions you might not know about, that you can start this year, in order to begin this Happily Sober file foundation.

File this under, 'happily sober'

  1. Yule Log- This isn't just a delicious chocolate treat during the holiday season. In fact, this is one my family has observed for almost half a decade now. In this tradition, you save the log of your Christmas tree until the following Christmas Eve. Upon which you light the log in hopes it will burn the whole night through until Christmas morning. It is said that when the tradition began, the logs would smolder well on through Christmas night. In most traditions, it's considered bad luck to relight the log once it's gone out. Maybe you don't have a real tree, or don't even celebrate Christmas, no problem, let's move on.
  2. Holiday Cards- the United States Postal Service is highly underrated in this day and age when you can instantly wish 1,000+ people an impersonal 'Happy Holiday'. Why don't you take some of this time to make and send some good old fashioned snail mail? Do you even remember when you got something in the mail that wasn't a bill? Just saying, no matter what holiday you observe, card exchanging is one tradition that should be brought back.
  3. Handmade Gifts - Pinterest is littered with ideas for literally everyone. You can make at home shrinky-dink keychains from kids handprints, begin canning, decorate picture frames, sew, knit or crochet something, make soaps and scrubs, or even get an ornament making kit. No, I'm not telling you to be cheap, or childish. Take some serious time and effort, head to Michael's craft store, and create something. If you are like me, prepare to have a few epic fails along the way as well. These people will love the personal touches and every single time they look at it, they will think of you with a smile. Some of my absolute favorite gifts ever are handmade items that remind me of exactly who made them and I'm transported to a slideshow of happy memories.
  4. Neighborhood Decorations- One of the coolest things I remember as a kid was loading up in the car around Christmas time and driving around the decorated neighborhoods to look at the lights. Albeit, for us the really decorated neighborhoods were in the nearest actual town, roughly 70 miles away. Needless to say, we only made the trip a handful of times. If you live in a city you have no excuse not to partake in this! Honestly, even if you are the biggest Grinch in the world, there is something magical about seeing all the houses lit up; Christmas reds and greens, Snowy white icicle lights, and blow up Frosty's on the lawn.
  5. Baking- I mean.....well, it just seems obvious. Maybe because baking while intoxicated, has always ended badly for me.  This year it's time for NEW traditions. *fingers crossed*
  6. Redding the House- This would be good for anyone with a fireplace and a fake tree. I suppose it's good for anyone with an indoor fireplace who does not plan on burning a Yule log, as you will be cleaning the hearth. Scottish tradition of the New Year was sweeping the ashes from the hearth as a skilled reader was brought in to tell the future for the household; reading the ashes much like one would read tea leaves. The tradition is to clean the house, much like we view spring cleaning. Last of the chores is ridding the house of the old ashes, making room for new abundances the New Year might bring. After which the house would be smudged to ward off negative spirits.
  7. Party (with a twist)- We all think of having a holiday party and that scares a lot of people in recovery. The probability that we can avoid alcohol on the holidays' decreases at any party. Well, one way to combat this is by turning to the long-forgotten Roman holiday of Saturnalia. During this holiday, families would pass off the party planning to someone -usually a child- to oversee the festivities of the holiday party. Kid's can plan, adults can supervise the planning, obviously, you can't hand your child a credit card and tell them to go wild, and in no instance will the kids ever bring up alcohol.
  8. Decorating Party- Thow on a Christmas playlist and get the household involved in decorating. Pick the day after Thanksgiving if you want, but set a day and hold yourself to it. If you don't decorate for the holiday, but you know Mrs. Smith down the street usually does, you might offer to string them for her. Try and keep in mind that the holidays aren't just hard for people trying to stay sober.
  9. Secret Santa- This can be done with coworkers and family alike. You can keep the gift at a $$ cap or not. The rules are really subject to how you want to play. You don't really have to be a firm observer of any holiday to partake in this one, as it's basically a blind-gift giving arrangement. Throw some names in a hat, but for the name you choose; swap and trade rules subject to change.
  10. Season of Giving (donate)- You know while you stand in your closet and pass up those still tagged items and ponder to yourself, "what am I going to wear today?" there are at least 842,000 people every week are waking up on the street asking the same question. Only those people are not asking because they have the luxury of picking which outfits to wear. They are more concerned that they have anything to wear. What better way to help? Giving back on the holiday often makes you feel better. It also will go a long way to put life in perspective. While battling addiction is a huge thing, it might seem like less of an issue after a day volunteering at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen.
  11. Movie Day- Yes, an entire Christmas Movie Day. I don't mean, bundle up in front of the marathon on TV, I mean think about your favorite Christmas or Christmas related movies. Make a list, check it twice and bring the candy covered popcorn!
  12. Camp out in the living room - I know we are all adult here, but who says you can't pile up the pillows and blankets and camp out in the middle of all the holiday fun? Nothing says cozy Christmas like camping in the living room trying to catch a glimpse of the magic before dawn.

This blog is long enough so I'll just end it by saying Happy Sober Holiday Season! I hope you find some great new ways to make memories during the holidays and some wonderful new traditions!

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