Most holiday celebrations throughout the year include festive food and drink. But if you recently completed an alcohol use disorder (AUD) rehab program, or you’re in recovery for substance use disorder (SUD), it’s sometimes a challenge to enjoy these events. Fortunately, just as you took control of your wellness before, you can continue to define it by creating new sober holiday traditions that reflect your purpose.
Do Traditions Really Matter?
If you’ve been through addiction rehabilitation, you likely developed a newfound respect for structure and community. For example, a 12-step program reinforces the grounding people often experience by following the program, going to meetings, and connecting with other individuals focused on wellness.
Oregon Counseling lists some of the major benefits of Sober Holiday Traditions and why they’re important:
- They reinforce ritual and routine.
- Certains aspects of structure and predictability help ease us through difficult times.
- They fulfill the “Four Bs”: being, belonging, believing, and benevolence.
- Traditions connect us with people who matter most in our lives.
Traditions, especially those associated with a particular holiday, foster a similar feeling. In an article for Psychology Today, therapist Kimberly Key noted that although they can sometimes be triggering, they also can help people form essential trust bonds “as they constitute a sense of continuity in life, represent familial connection, and fill each person’s vital need for a sense of belonging.”
One exercise Key suggests is to write down various traditions celebrated by your family and why. To root yourself in a place of gratitude, find at least one thing good or meaningful about them: the scents in the house, laughter, the taste of a certain food, and so on. Then, what lessons have you learned from these traditions? Knowing this can help you either appreciate past customs but reframe them in a healthy way, or develop new ones that are more in keeping with your current state of being and align with your boundaries.
Creating New Sober Holiday Traditions
As you consider the perspective of your sobriety on certain traditions, Psychiatrist Laura Dabney recognizes an important point: sometimes, we might actually be too focused on established traditions and have trouble letting go or modifying them, especially as other family members create their own. But since you’re in recovery, you might have a better chance at adapting. Here are her recommendations:
- Take the opportunity to join in a new tradition. “Ask if you can bring an ingredient or part of the tradition you shared with them to the table. By asking, you’re being respectful of the new tradition they are starting with their family,” Dabney says. “If they agree, choose a part of the tradition you’d like to include and try to come up with a compromise of blending the old tradition with the new tradition. This way you are respecting both your wish and theirs.” This might also lead to something completely new for everyone that has even more meaning.
- “Consider finding an extended family member and doing a ‘tradition swap.’ For instance, if your tradition comes from your parents, find a cousin of your parents who you can reach out to and share traditions together,” she adds. And if they present another tradition you’ve not experienced, all the better.
Here are some other ideas to consider for Sober Holiday Traditions that don’t rely on drugs or alcohol.
- Mindfulness and meditation gatherings
Create a serene environment with soft lighting, comfortable seating, and perhaps some gentle background music. Focus on relaxation techniques, gratitude practices, and mindfulness exercises to promote a sense of peace and well-being during the holiday season.
- Cultural potluck celebration
Host an event where each attendee brings a dish representing their cultural background or a different cuisine. Celebrate diversity and traditions by sharing stories behind the dishes. It’s an opportunity to learn about different cultures and enjoy a wide array of delicious foods.
- Outdoor adventure day
Enjoying nature and physical activity can be a refreshing and invigorating way to celebrate holiday togetherness. Organize activities such as hiking, outdoor photography, geocaching, stargazing, a nature scavenger hunt, or something more vigorous, such as kayaking or horseback riding. Outdoor adventures are especially good options for gathering with friends who still drink when you’d like to remain sober.
- Community volunteering
Get involved in local charities, shelters, or food banks. You could organize a group to serve meals at a soup kitchen, collect donations for a cause, or participate in a neighborhood cleanup. Giving back can be incredibly rewarding and spreads the holiday spirit.
- DIY craft workshops
This is a great way to bond and make handmade unique items for friends and family. Provide materials like paper, paints, fabrics, or clay, and guide participants through creative projects
These and other fun sober activities help create meaningful connections, spread joy, and celebrate every holiday, fostering a warm and inclusive atmosphere for everyone involved.
Support From Great Oaks All Year Long
At Great Oaks Recovery Center outside of Houston, we strive to provide whole-person care that establishes a long-lasting foundation of wellness. Aspects of inpatient treatment vary depending on an individual’s needs, but the focus remains the same: to ensure board-certified, qualitative solutions during and after treatment. Any time of year, you or a loved one can rely on our dedicated continuing care program to ensure you live a rich life in recovery.