Dealing with Grief as a Recovering Addict During the Holidays

Hopexchange is pleased to welcome guest blogger Kailey Fitzgerald. Kailey is a young writer in the recovery community. She has found peace through recovering from substance abuse and trauma. Her life’s passion is to help others do the same.

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Christmas was always something I looked forward to. Spending time with my family and getting to see everyone happy and in one place meant everything to me. The Christmas gathering after my grandfather’s passing was a strange, painful, and emotionally numbing experience. Christmas went from one of my favorite times of the year to a day that I dreaded. I explained to my sponsor how I was feeling and she explained to me that being sad and even feeling numb is normal, it is a part of the grieving process. From that moment on, I realized that it was okay to accept my feelings and recognize them as valid.

My realization led me to another; I realized that my grandfather would want us to enjoy Christmas, make new memories, and reminisce on the good times when we began to miss him. But, doing this is easier said than done. My grief still creeps up, so for the times that it does I have developed an array of tools to comfort myself.

Talk to someone you trust when you are struggling.

When you are in recovery, it is vital to remain open and honest about your feelings so they do not cause you to spiral towards a relapse. The reason most addicts use is to cover up any uncomfortable emotions or unwanted memories. In recovery, you learn to reach out to others foremotional support and guidance.

If you are at a holiday dinner and you begin to feel upset, make sure not to ignore your feelings or attempt to stuff them. This will put a stop to your grieving process, making it harder for you to cope in the long run. Reach out to a loved one or sober support and express your feelings. No one will mind, in fact, they may be feeling the same way as you.

Take time out for yourself.

One of the best ways to calm your nerves and clear your head during the holiday season is to make sure that you plan self-care activities. The holidays can get busy and hectic, so scheduling self-care activities that don’t take much time would be perfect. For example, taking a hot bath and using essential oils or bath bombs could give you the time and space you need to clear your head.

Plan ahead for instances where you may feel overwhelmed.

Trying to have fun and cheery holiday celebrations while dealing with the grief of a loved one passing away can be difficult. It is inevitable that at some point you will feel sad, angry or overwhelmed about your loved one’s absence. Being prepared for these emotions will help you deal with them promptly, rather than allowing them to fester and ruin your whole day. You never know what could trigger you to remember your loved one, causing you to become sad and reminiscent. These memories can become overwhelming, so knowing how to deal with them in a healthy manner is a must.

In order to prepare, think about what you may say in order to excuse yourself from the table if things become too much. You will also want to plan where you will go to calm yourself down andwho you may seek advice or comfort from. Putting these plans in place is like investing in an emotional safety-net. If you stick to the plan, you will still feel your emotions but in a healthy manner, rather than allowing your feelings to encompass your whole mind.

Talk about your loved one and reminisce about the good times.

Sometimes it can feel wrong or awkward to bring up a loved one after they have passed away. However, it is actually healthy to have conversations about them in order to accept the fact that they are gone. Reminding yourself that they lived a happy and full life can also be extremely helpful when you begin to feel upset.

When you talk about your loved one to your other family members and friends, be sure to mention the good times in order to avoid triggering others. Reminisce about the good times. For example, tell a story about something funny that they used to do or even reflect on how they used to celebrate the holidays. If everyone present is comfortable, do something in their honor during your holiday celebration. This can help grant yourself and others closure in regards to your loved one’s passing.

Remember that it is okay to NOT be okay.

Everyone has a different grieving process and each person will heal in a different frame of time. If you notice that your other family members seem to be doing better than you, do not beat yourself up. They could be just as hurt as you are and just handle their emotions in a different manner. It is perfectly normal to feel any of the emotions you may be feeling, grief has a way of bringing up unexpected feelings. Being angry, sad, disappointed, resentful, or even numb is common among people going through the grieving process.

Remember that just because the holidays are meant to be “cheery and light”, that does not give you the obligation to pretend to be okay. It is important to feel your feelings and allow them to run their course. If you don’t allow yourself to feel your emotions, you could end up accidentally lashing out or snapping on someone you love. Plus, your loved ones will not fault you for being upset or needing support. Make your feelings a priority and you will be able to have a successfulholiday.

Should I Go? Help for the Holidays

Help for the Holidays

Help for the Holidays

Holidays and special events are normally a time of joy and celebration, however they can become a painful reminder of your loss. Seeing family members, making decisions, and attending the holiday activities you usually enjoy can take on a different outlook after the loss of a child.

If you begin feeling sadness during the holidays or a special occasion, think about why you are feeling that way; process those feelings and accept them.  It is a perfectly normal reaction to your grief. Taking this step ahead of time may help you to avoid some uncomfortable moments in public.

 

Should I Go?

 

Ask yourself if you are ready to attend family gatherings or parties. This will give you the opportunity to let someone know your decision in advance. Knowing that you would have planned to share your new baby at these celebrations could make them difficult and even tearful for you. Give yourself the option to gracefully bow out of the activity. Asking yourself these questions before a special event may help:
  • Can I handle this? Is this something I would enjoy? If so, it could be a good way to lift your spirits.
  • What does my spouse think? Will it cause problems if I do not attend?
  • Would the holiday or special event be the same if I don’t attend? Deciding not to attend a Christmas play will not take away from the holiday season; however deciding not to attend Thanksgiving dinner will certainly change the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thinking through these questions ahead of time can help you arrive at a decision that is right for you, and one that will not negatively impact your spouse or your family.
The above is an excerpt from the book Hope is Like the Sun.

Christmas is About a Baby

christmas-star-77979-mAs I look back over the Christmas Holiday that just passed, there was another story of grief and loss; a baby that was never born. The grand daughter of a good friend experienced a miscarriage that was followed with three months of physical complications and pain. Her emotional saga finally came to a close with a final procedure that took place the week before Christmas.

It has been a very difficult time for the family.

I thought about how many times I have seen and heard about stories just like this one in my many years of supporting families who are dealing with the grief and loss of miscarriage. The “regularity” in which it seems to happen is striking and disheartening. It could become easy to focus on this very sad reality. But then I think about all of the new babies that I have welcomed into the world this year, and years gone by, with gifts and showers and notes of congratulations.

Just like anything else, we can choose to see the tragedy the world can bring, or the hope we all long for. During the Christmas Season we tend to turn our thoughts to the joy and peace we’d like to have all year long- not just while we attend festive parties, eat our goodies and tear open gifts with family and friends.

When the tree is taken down and the gifts have all been put away the spirit and joy of Christmas can disappear as well. It can be tough to hold on throughout the year- especially if we are dealing with grief and pain. Unless we remember that Christmas is about a baby- a baby that was born to bring us a peace and hope that does not fade when the decorations are put away. Want to know more about this baby? Would you like to know a peace that does not get packed away in attic each year? Find a pastor, rabbi, priest, church or trusted friend who can tell you more.

May you find and keep the Christmas spirit throughout 2018 and beyond.

This post is run each year during the Holiday Season. May it bring you peace in the year to come.

Staying Sober: Handling the Stress of the Holidays

HopeXchange is proud to welcome another distinguished guest post! Constance Ray co-created RecoveryWell to provide a safe place for people to share their addiction stories so that others can learn from them and benefit in their own lives. In this article, amidst the holiday festivities, while a relapse is attempting to steal one’s joy here are some ways to conquer it. Wishing everyone a joyful time this holiday season.

Photo via Pixabay by Geralt.

Big family celebrations, colorfully-lit trees, and exchanging gifts are some of the things that make the holiday season special for many people.  Recovering addicts may view the holiday a little differently, with stress and trepidation.

Chaotic parties and family events, coupled with a feeling of loneliness, can all be triggers for a temptation to relapse. Making a plan to neutralize these situations can help you make it through the holidays without having a meltdown or risking your sobriety.

Starting with a Plan of Action

Start every single day with a plan of action.  Look in your mirror and tell yourself how good it feels to be sober and in charge of your life.  Keep notes and positive sayings on your mirror for reinforcement of your daily goals.

Set a routine for yourself as much as possible during the holiday season.  Maintaining recovery depends on getting good rest, eating healthy foods, and getting exercise in your schedule whenever possible.  Placing your health as a top priority will aid in recovery by keeping blood sugar levels in check, curbing irritability, and keeping cravings low.

Knowing your triggers and assessing possible stressors can help you make a plan for the day’s events.  Don’t be afraid to decline certain parties or get-togethers that may present too many issues for you.  Try bringing a close friend or family member with you to events you do attend to support your sobriety.

Being sober will not always guarantee life will go as planned.  The holidays are not the same for everyone, so be realistic with your expectations.  Your joy can come from different places and moments if you look for it.

Dealing with Holiday Parties

Take control of how you navigate holiday parties and events. Driving yourself to holiday events is one way to have an easy way to leave whenever you feel necessary.  Knowing some people or situations might set off your triggers might be a good reason to arrive early and have the option to leave earlier.  When people do not respect your boundaries, feel free to leave the area or the party.

If you’re a recovering alcoholic, being handed drinks or desserts with alcohol in them could trigger relapse.  Plan some drinks and snacks to bring along to parties, or serve yourself before the host does to avoid the possibility of being handed things you might have to politely decline.

Board games, movies, or playing outside in the snow might be better options to suggest to family members instead of sitting around talking and pouring drinks.  Staying active will curb cravings and alleviate stressful conversations or situations.

Ways to Handle Stress and Temptations

When things are getting too stressful, take some time to walk away and breathe.  Clear your mind of thoughts of substance abuse and focus on all the steps you’ve made toward sobriety so far.  Think about things you can be grateful for in your life, instead the possibility of relapse.

Call on your support system, whenever necessary.  A trusted friend, family member, or sponsor that can be available when you need to talk is invaluable.  Get through the holiday season by attending some extra AA or NA meetings.  You can find meetings to attend in almost any city while traveling to bolster your sobriety resolve during the holidays.

Ask What You Can Do

Sometimes we get so focused on our own problems that we forget there are others dealing with the same problems or worse.  Finding ways to help support other recovering addicts at events, volunteering at homeless shelters, or asking an older neighbor if they need help with errands during the holidays, can bring joy into your life as much as it will bring into theirs.  Actively engaging in a positive, meaningful lifestyle, will make you stronger and more confident in your sobriety, and get you through the holidays stress free.

Christmas is About a Baby

christmas-star-77979-m As I look back over the Christmas Holiday that just passed, there was another story of grief and loss; a baby that was never born. The grand daughter of a good friend experienced a miscarriage that was followed with three months of physical complications and pain. Her emotional saga finally came to a close with a final procedure that took place the week before Christmas. It has been a very difficult time for the family.

I thought about how many times I have seen and heard about stories just like this one in my many years of supporting families who are dealing with the grief and loss of miscarriage. The “regularity” in which it seems to happen is striking and disheartening. It could become easy to focus on this very sad reality. But then I think about all of the new babies that I have welcomed into the world this year, and years gone by, with gifts and showers and notes of congratulations.

Just like anything else, we can choose to see the tragedy the world can bring, or the hope we all long for. During the Christmas Season we tend to turn our thoughts to the joy and peace we’d like to have all year long- not just while we attend festive parties, eat our goodies and tear open gifts with family and friends.

When the tree is taken down and the gifts have all been put away the spirit and joy of Christmas can disappear as well. It can be tough to hold on throughout the year- especially if we are dealing with grief and pain. Unless we remember that Christmas is about a baby- a baby that was born to bring us a peace and hope that does not fade when the decorations are put away. Want to know more about this baby? Would you like to know a peace that does not get packed away in attic each year? Find a pastor, rabbi, priest, church or trusted friend who can tell you more.

May you find and keep the Christmas spirit throughout 2015 and beyond.