With the festive season well and truly underway, it is hard to escape the fact that Christmas is only a few short weeks away and whilst it is a joyous occasion for lots of people, for many in recovery the Christmas period can be a particularly difficult time.
Everywhere we look, from Christmas cards, billboards, magazines, newspapers, adverts and even soap operas and films, as well as the ever-present social media, Christmas is portrayed as a happy time, a time to spend with family. However, these images of everyone standing around the tree or sitting at the table eating and drinking merrily actually taps into many people’s fears and insecurities of inadequacy or loneliness, not to mention the social pressure it creates that we must all have a wonderful time. The reality is that for many, their family and the people in their lives are actually quite different and far more mundane than this media image portrays.
Christmas is also a time when people have to contend with sad or difficult memories, or reflect on those they have lost and this is more true for those in recovery, whose lives are likely to have been chaotic when they were living with active addiction. So Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve may have very traumatic memories, inducing more feelings of shame from extreme behaviour at these times or, for example possible suicide attempts or situations that resulted in police involvement.
For recovering alcoholics, this situation is compounded by an increase in the constant and unrelenting advertising of alcohol. It is ever present throughout the year but at Christmas alcohol seems to be on every aisle at the supermarket and it suddenly becomes the key ingredient in otherwise commonplace groceries and it is more often than not included in recipes; think of the Christmas pudding alight with brandy or the cake which is fed alcohol in the weeks leading up to the big day.
All of these things can challenge even the strongest in recovery, so it is no wonder that for those who have struggled with addiction, this is a very difficult time of year. Which is why, we reach out to many Hebron graduates at this time and often include them in our Christmas day activities. It is also worth remembering that whilst we do need to be mindful of the heightened dangers this time of year, most people who leave Hebron House also talk about the wonderful new memories they formed after their first sober or clean Christmas and New Year.