Many of us look at Norman Rockwell’s famous paintings of happy families during the holidays—paintings like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”—and imagine that our gatherings will have the same festive glow.
While we all aspire to have a harmonious table with all our loved ones, no one enjoys a perfect family holiday—not even Norman Rockwell himself.
In a 2013 book titled, “American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell,” author Deborah Solomon reveals that the Rockwell family struggled as his wife, Mary, was treated for alcoholism and depression.
Now that we know even Norman Rockwell didn’t have a Norman Rockwell holiday, how do we make the holidays manageable for our own imperfect families; particularly when it comes to those new to recovery and how difficult it can be to stay sober this time of year?
Into Action offers five tips for those in recovery to make staying sober this holiday easier, even when life at home is far from perfect.
1. Stay safe
If you’re living with active addiction, do not discount the extra stress the holidays bring. For the addicted person and their family, more stress means more vulnerability. After all, the holidays can kick off a perfect storm of family and money stress. Don’t discount the impact this storm can have. If you feel scared or unsafe in your own home, reach out for help.
Maybe you are worried about your own drug use, or maybe you’re worried about the drug use of someone else. Either way, most addiction recovery agencies, treatment centers, and domestic violence resources increase efforts during the holidays. You aren’t alone, and you don’t have to feel unsafe. Call a local treatment center like Into Action Recovery Centers or a local crisis line. Make this holiday the last unsafe holiday for you and your family.
2. Seek extra support when you experience extra stress
Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and other 12-step recovery groups put extra meetings into place either in person or over the phone during the holidays. Al-Anon, for instance, offers meetings every hour on the hour over the phone on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Call local intergroups for more information.
3. Create manageable holiday goals
Maybe this year the Christmas budget is slim because of the ravages of addiction. Instead of dwelling on the number of gifts under the tree, focus on the experiences you create. Research has proven that experiences are more valuable to children than objects. If you can’t afford to buy each child the latest tech gadget, think of a Christmas experience you can manage within your budget.
Taking a night to drive around looking at neighborhood Christmas lights is a small investment of gas and time. Throw in a stop at a local fast-food restaurant, and you have a super kid-friendly event without the pressure of spending tons of cash. Other examples of cheap holiday family experiences can include Cookie-making, gingerbread houses, Christmas movie night with popcorn and hot chocolate, paper wreath and paper chain making and more. Keep it low stress and low cost. Find the saddest-looking Christmas tree on the lot and make it look amazing. Take before and after photos. Call it “Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.”
4. Get financial help if you need it
Living with addiction takes the strength of a superhero, regardless if you are the addict or the loved one. Throw a couple of kids into the mix, plus a pet or two, and you have a recipe for a super meltdown. Luckily, community agencies can help in situations like this. It’s not your fault you are facing the challenge of addiction. If pride is a factor, imagine a time in the future when you will be the one helping another family in need. Call your local United Way or house of worship for information on help with holiday meals and gifts for children. Everyone needs help at one time or another. In the end, the humility you gain will only strengthen your recovery.
5. Be kind to yourself
There is no such thing as perfect recovery. Acknowledge your victories. Give yourself props every time you make an outreach call, head to a meeting, read recovery literature, say a slogan and rest.
Recovery from addiction isn’t easy. When you find yourself looking to Norman Rockwell’s image of the American family holiday, remember that even Rockwell didn’t match the scene. Instead, take an honest look at what you value most for your family’s season. If it’s time together, then make that the priority. If it’s relaxation and baking, make this the focus. Maybe this is the year for some new holiday traditions.