Coping with being alone over Christmas
With Christmas fast approaching and the party season already underway, perhaps you are afraid of feeling lonely this Christmas.
Christmas brings up all kinds of emotions for everyone. For those of us in addiction recovery, emotions used to be the driving force in our drinking and drug use. Being in recovery means we have to deal with these emotions in a different, healthier way.
Perhaps Christmas brings up some uncomfortable memories and feelings, such as loneliness, sadness, a sense of loss, or grief. These are all commonly felt at his time of year. There is something about the expectations of what Christmas should be like that can be very triggering for some people.
Are you lonely this Christmas?
Many people in early recovery from addiction find themselves alone over Christmas. Active addiction drives us to isolate and hurt those that are close to us. Perhaps you no longer have a partner or are unable to see your children or family on Christmas Day. These are common occurrences in early sobriety and recovery.
Although you have made the very important and life-changing step of getting clean and sober, repairing relationships takes time. Nevertheless, it can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially at this time of year.
Making a plan for this Christmas period can save you from feeling lonely. It can help prevent you from ruminating over the past and comparing yourself to others. A plan can help you to stay sober and sane.
Make some enquiries; are there others like you who will be alone over the Christmas period, can you plan some time with them? If not, what would be your ideal day? Whatever your perfect day looks like, plan it in advance—having a plan in place takes out the wondering, the anxiety and the what-ifs.
If you are spending this Christmas on your own, feelings of being lonely can be overwhelming. Whilst these feelings are valid, it is also a matter of perspective. There are many things you can do to prevent these feelings from consuming you and ultimately leading to relapse.
Prior to physically picking up a drink or a drug, an emotional relapse takes place. This is where working on your emotional state and preparing for the days ahead can be invaluable in safeguarding your recovery.
Feeling alone looks different for different people. Whilst some only feel this way when they are physically isolated, others can feel lonely in a room full of people they know well. For many in addiction recovery, it can be a case of both.
One interesting concept is that loneliness is a disease and an addiction. This indicates that it can be diagnosed and treated as an internal and external condition (much like addiction). Loneliness can impact gravely on a person’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. It can lead to depression and can precipitate suicidal ideation and para-suicide. This is why it is so important to recognise if you are likely to feel lonely this Christmas and take action now. 1
Plenty of psychiatrists agree that loneliness is a matter of perspective. Christmas is a time that naturally exaggerates a person feeling lonely due to its traditions and expectations. Even if you are physically on your own this Christmas, it doesn't mean you have to feel lonely.
Tips to avoid feeling lonely this Christmas
Christmas time is traditionally a time for families to get together and have fun. It is about giving and receiving. But what if you aren’t in a position to do this? What if you have no family, or you feel disconnected from the family that you do have? Both of these scenarios are common. They are especially common for those in early recovery.
There are plenty of things you can do to avoid feeling lonely this Christmas if you accept that loneliness is just an emotion that results from negative self-talk.
For instance, rather than seeing not having an invite to spend Christmas with someone as “nobody loves or wants me”, you could see it as an opportunity to do whatever it is you want. With no traditions to uphold, you can create your own traditions that show love to yourself.
Every day in addiction recovery is a day where recovery has to be prioritised and Christmas and New Year are no different. You may find the following suggestions helpful in overcoming loneliness over the festive period.
Tips on overcoming loneliness this Christmas
Plan your day
Make a plan for the day and stick to it as much as possible. Perhaps you have something that needs doing that you have been putting off for ages. Maybe planning a walk around the local park and taking in nature will help. Perhaps you would prefer to watch a boxset and eat snacks. Whatever it is that you enjoy, plan for it.
Connection is the opposite of loneliness, some also say it is the opposite of addiction. Staying connected with like-minded others who understand you, and who are walking the recovery path can help massively in helping you not feel lonely this Christmas. You can join our Recoverlution community for free today as part of your plan.
Find out what is available in your local area.
Pick up the phone, attend a meeting, go to a church service - Most areas will hold a church service or have a meeting you can attend. If you are rural and don't have transport, you can use the phone or zoom to attend an online meeting or get connected with a friend, sponsor or a local mental health service
Buy yourself something nice
If you are not anticipating any gifts this year, buy yourself something nice. It doesn't have to be expensive, just something that you consider a treat. Some nice perfume or aftershave perhaps, a new book to read or some candles. Buy yourself something that you would gratefully receive from someone else.
Take some exercise
Exercise has been proven to boost the feel-good chemicals in the brain. If it's too cold to go out and exercise put your favourite dance music on and dance around the house. Getting moving can quickly lift your mood, and warm you up.
Be mindful of what you read, watch and engage in
You may find it helpful to stay off social media over the festive period. Comparing yourself to others will only make you feel worse. Instead find a comedy, a drama or a science fiction film, anything that distracts you and is enjoyable to watch.
Help others in need
Contribute some energy towards a worthy cause. Many people suffer at Christmas time. Whether it be a homeless person or an elderly neighbour. Lifting someone's spirits will lift yours and take your mind off your own situation. A simple chat and some time out of your day are all it takes. If you know others in recovery that are struggling, you could also check on them.
Accept you feel alone
Acceptance of your feelings will help you to keep a check on any negative self-talk. Instead of putting yourself down, be proud of how far you have come and remind yourself that these feelings will pass.
Feeling lonely at Christmas is probably much more common than you think, even for those who are surrounded by family. Rebuilding social and intimate connections takes time after addiction. Staying sober over the festive period counts towards building a better and more resilient you. Remember, it is only a few days and then normality will return. During these days do whatever it is that makes you feel good inside and have a plan in place.
Most importantly try to reach out to others that you trust and express your concerns. They will likely be very supportive and check in on you over the coming weeks.
1. Loneliness: A disease? PMS https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3890922/