What If I told you that people do not relapse because of the holiday season?
For some, that’s a hard pill to swallow, because so many of us have been told this very lie. It is a lie that comes from well-meaning folks, but has ultimately caused more confusion, rather than any actually helping.
The truth is – contrary to popular belief – once we have worked the 12 steps and have recovered from alcoholism and drug addiction, no outside circumstance can cause a relapse.
“Wait wait wait—I’ll always be recovering! I have to be on the constant lookout for a relapse, it can come at anytime!”
Oh dear, can you imagine if that was what was promised to us from our 12 step fellowships? How can any of us stay sober if that were the truth? What I have learned, and what we teach to our residents here at Windhaven House, is a promise of freedom from the desire to use or drink. Life doesn’t stop just because we stop getting loaded, and people in our lives don’t stop being sick just because we decided to get well. Therefore, it’s an internal matter as to whether or not we achieve long-term sobriety and avoid a relapse during adversities of any kind.
“Okay, then riddle me this – if the holiday season isn’t the cause for relapse, why is staying sober during the holidays so hard for so many people?”
Well I’m glad you asked. The truth is, people relapse all the time – year round. It tends to be more detrimental during the holiday season because us addicts ruined yet another Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hannukah. Sure, there’s a lot of relapse, but it’s not because of too much or too little holiday cheer. I might lose you here but hear me out:
We relapse because we’ve let up on our spiritual program of action.
We are given clear-cut instructions, not only on how to be sober – but how to be free from the desire to use altogether and actually be HAPPY and PEACEFUL! These instructions are contingent totally and completely on OUR action, OUR honesty, OUR open-mindedness, and OUR willingness.
“Okay, maybe there’s some stock in what you’re saying – but staying sober during the holidays seems so difficult with all the triggers around me.”
Great point. The truth is, once we have recovered we are no longer “triggered” by external things. If you are new to the program and have yet to fearlessly and thoroughly worked the 12 steps with a sponsor, you are not doomed.
Things to Remember
- You are not obligated to be put in a toxic situation. I know how much a lot of us want to be present for our families during this time of year and “make up for” a lot of the harm we have caused, but if it’s not a healthy situation, maybe sitting this one out would be your best bet. If you work the program and take direction, you’ll have plenty of time to make your amends and be present with a stronger foundation and a lack of fear. Remember that fear-based decisions tend to steer us away from the sunlight of the spirit.
- Utilize your resources. Your sponsor may be busy – they are people too – which is why creating the fellowship we crave is so important. Having a group of people we can call to 10th step in the moments when fear, selfishness, dishonesty, and resentment pop up will help us to stay connected. We don’t get to “take a break” from our spiritual growth. This is a great time to see how free we’re willing to be. Checking in with our sponsors, staying transparent about where we’re at, doing our nightly inventory, praying and meditating, and being of service to those about us.
No one trying to get sober there, you say? How can you be of service, you ask? Do the dishes. Help with the cooking. Clean up after people. See how others are doing. There are infinite ways to get out of ourselves. We must remember that selfishness and self-centeredness is the root of our troubles.
So very refreshing to hear the words like Freedom and Recovered with regards to the AA program. I applaud you for carrying and speaking the message.