Holidays and Knowing Your Place in Recovery and In Your Family

For those who are in recovery, the holidays can be a complicated time. There have often been discoveries and disclosure, which can dramatically shift the dynamics of your relationships. This can be true of marriages and romantic relationships, but it can also be true of parent-child relationships as well. These changes can make it difficult to know how you should feel and behave at this time.

I tend to advocate for authenticity. However, you do want this authenticity to be mindful. What I mean by this is that you have to take the feelings of your family into consideration. Some things you may want to share, while other things you may want to keep more to yourself.

It can be difficult to know what makes your family comfortable and uncomfortable. The best way to find this out is to ask. Learn about what makes your family feel OK and what makes them feel more uncomfortable. Whether it’s something that you say or something that you do, this knowledge can help you rebuild trust and connection.

A big dictator of knowing your place in the holiday is where you’re at in your recovery. Time can play a huge role in this. As more time has passed, things are more likely to settle down, and your family is more likely to be settled back into its roles. However, if there has been recent trauma, discovery, or betrayal, you’re more likely to have a holiday season that is more constrained and on edge.

Respecting your partner is the best rule of thumb if you’re in a situation of recent discovery. Some partners may want to talk about the upcoming holiday plans, while others may prefer more time and space. I do recommend some level of communication, as you both can tolerate it. If this turns into a complete shut down, or it turns into belligerence, then please get help from a therapist.

Let go of some of the pressure to “be happy”.

In practicing authenticity, there is often a struggle with a common holiday pressure. Many feel as though they need to be happy and show their happiness to others. We have a cultural pressure that this needs to be happy time of year. However, sometimes it’s not. Even in the most normal of situations, this time of year can be filled with pressure and anxiety. I am here to tell you, that’s OK. Fighting against feelings of sadness, hurt, and fear are going to just make them worse.

I recommend you find support. Remember that your family members may not be able to sit in your support section at this time. If you can find a friend who will not judge you, then utilize that support. If not, you may need to reach out to a support group who will practice understanding of the emotions that you’re experiencing.

Get Curious

Things shift and change in recovery. This can change your relationships. Over time, this is likely to become a positive thing. However, the present can leave you feeling very vulnerable.

Get curious to deal with this vulnerability. Ask yourself what feels the most right, and check in with your family members to see what feels the best and most authentic to all of you. This can help you to create new traditions and develop new senses of connection.

Enjoy stuff outside of the holidays.

During this time of the year, you can get too caught up in the plans for the holiday. This can build up anxiety and pressure in the anticipation. However, it’s important to orient yourself to positive elements of your life. Identify those hobbies and activities that you enjoy the most. If you are lacking these elements, you may need to add them. Experiment with some sports and activities to see how they are for you. Also, identify some of those things that you’ve always wanted to try, but just haven’t yet.

Depending on where you’re at in your recovery, this time of year can be challenging. However, it can also be a time of year where you can set a tone for your future as well. This can help to build new connections and traditions, which are important in all families. If you’re struggling with communication, or you feel stuck about how to handle this time of year, find a family therapist who can help you.


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