Alumni Interview by EHN Staff
In this blog post series, EHN alumni share their experience, strength, and hope for the holiday season.
What were the winter holidays like for you prior to recovery?
Absolutely terrible. I would do anything to pretend I was ‘busy’ at work so I wouldn’t have to participate in family functions. I knew I couldn’t be present with my family. I was always preoccupied by thoughts to use and how I could leave to go use. My addiction and obsessive thoughts caused my anxiety around people to skyrocket. The shame of this obsession led me to lie to my family and throw myself into work so I didn’t have to face the pain of my addiction.
Is there a part of the winter holidays that is particularly special for you now?
Definitely the fact that I can be present and fully enjoy family time. My heart is so full spending time with the kids in my life. I also don’t have to make excuses if I am genuinely needing some alone time. I can set boundaries with my family so that when I do spend time with them I am just so grateful to be there and in the moment.
What advice do you have for people in treatment over the holidays?
It is tough, but it will be okay. This is just one holiday away from home, focusing on your healing, so you can spend many more holidays with family. Your family wouldn’t want it any other way. They want you to be well. You are loved and worth it…and let’s face it… they don’t really want us around if we are using or active in our addiction.
What would you say to the loved ones of someone who is new to recovery or attending treatment over the winter holidays?
Just breathe. Your loved one may be sad or homesick but they are safe and around people who care for them and can relate to their experience—it’s preparation for many more holidays to come.
What are your top three suggestions for people celebrating the winter holidays in recovery for the first time?
- Stay connected by keeping a list of people you can call in recovery and telling them about your plans.
- Have an escape plan for every event. If I feel triggered or unsafe, I have an exit strategy I can follow. It often includes excusing myself early and calling my sponsor or attending a meeting.
- Spend time honouring any emotions that may come up and give yourself time to process them.
What struggles do you still face during the winter holidays and how do you respond to these struggles?
I can still struggle with feeling lonely as my family lives in a different city. Feeling lonely is a healthy emotion to feel when separated from loved ones. It is important for me especially at Christmas to have regular meeting attendance. I enjoy going to on-line meetings—it’s like sitting in a room full of family and people who understand what you are going through.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Attending treatment any time of the year is hard. It can be painful to process emotions that have been suppressed by the use of substances. It is also sooooo worth it. We only grow when it rains. Or maybe when it snows in this case!
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