How to create new holiday traditions in recovery

Letting go of the past can be especially hard during the first few holidays in recovery. Past holiday traditions might bring up painful memories or put you in situations you don’t want to be in. But you deserve to feel safe, respected, and supported.

We spoke with Groups staff at our offices across the country to get their advice for creating new holiday traditions.

1. Talk about new traditions ahead of time.

Being open and honest is a great place to start. “Talk about what you need/want ahead of time,” says Stephanie Roberts, Groups Senior Recovery Support Specialist in Maine. “Propose new family traditions that support your recovery.”

Groups counselors recommended starting new traditions like:

  • Having a gingerbread decorating contest.
  • Making ornaments.
  • Having a special meal.
  • Creating a mocktail recipe for the whole family.
  • Perfecting a cookie recipe.
  • Making paper snowflakes.
  • Doing something active.
  • Looking at Christmas lights.
  • Watching holiday movies.
  • Going to religious services.
  • Going to holiday plays.
  • Volunteering at shelters.
  • Hosting your own party and setting your own limits.

2. Start a list of short-term and long-term goals.

Manny Reis, Groups office manager in Farmington, ME, recommends spending time setting goals: “After ringing in the new year, start on a list of short-term and long-term goals. Hang it near your bathroom mirror, so you see it every day.”

3. Celebrate the wins.

Marguerite Boone, a Groups counselor in Louisville, KY, says that wins should be celebrated, big or small: “Set aside time in your evening routine at the end of each month to think back. Think about the wonderful events that occurred, the things you were grateful you experienced, the people you interacted with, and the days you made it through when you did not think it was possible. Setting aside time at the end of the month allows you to reflect on the positivity that occurred. You can take with you into the brand-new month. This will make it easier to log and plan for the new year.”

Glenda Lockhart, LPC, a Groups counselor in Pounding Vill, VA, suggests celebrating the wins with cake: “Have a cake with a candle for each month or year of sobriety and make a wish and blow the candles out.”

Angelica McAdam, a Groups counselor in Houlton, ME, recommends doing something special for yourself. That could be going out to eat, getting your nails done, spending time with your support system, or buying yourself a gift.

4. Make a gratitude list.

Angelica says to consider making a gratitude list to remind yourself of everything that’s good in your life.

5. Write a letter to 2023.

Manny encourages writing a letter to the past year and then burning it: “Write a letter to the year that’s passed us by. Express all emotions and how the year has made you feel. After midnight, burn it. Then there is no trace of the ‘bad’ that happened.”

4. Create a vision board.

Stephanie suggests creating a vision board for the future you want: “Find words, phrases, and pictures that inspire your future and recovery. This can help keep you dedicated.”

5. Focus on what the holidays are all about.

Jordan Williams, BA, CADC, a Groups counselor in Bardstown, KY, says it’s important to get back to basics: “Focus on the original meanings of the holiday, such as community, family, togetherness, and gratitude.”

Want more tips for staying grounded in your recovery goals over the holidays? Download the guide we put together, with love, to help you feel supported this time of year.

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