How To Survive The Holidays – Part 1

How To Survive The Holidays – Part 1Toilet Paper Trap

Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

The holidays are a time of celebration, of receiving and giving, of family gatherings and when friends get together to celebrate.  For those of us in recovery there are any number of challenges that arise from all of this.  Some of us associate all of these things with using and get a strong urge to use.  Some of us get so angry or hurt by what we get as gifts or don’t get as gifts that we cannot function well.  Some of us do not have the heart or mind for the giving part, while others of us give for the wrong reasons and end up frustrated.  Some of us have a strong urge to relapse at the mere thought of family gatherings for all sorts of different reasons.  For some of us gathering with friends is a recipe for relapse and others of us are depressed by the idea because we do not perceive ourselves to have any friends to gather with.  Some of us just simply hate the “holiday season” altogether or find ourselves depressed for no apparent reason during this time of year.   A few will find ourselves enjoying the holidays only to find that all of a sudden we cannot handle the feeling of enjoying ourselves and will have the urge to self-destruct our own enjoyment.   The way we tend to see things seems to be amplified this time of year and may seem like an inevitable train wreck waiting to happen.

The temptation is to focus on the negatives and sink into some kind of pity-party or try to act like the thoughts and feelings don’t exist.  As far as focusing on the negatives, we know that many of us that have been alcoholics or addicts can’t seem to be able to stop ourselves from seeing the glass as half empty instead of half full.  The truth is that realizing that the half empty glass is also half full is a good start, but is not enough.  For us there needs to be action to fill the glass the rest of the way also. Changing how we see things is good, but changing the parts of the situations that we control (ourselves) is better.

One of the simplest ways to begin to work through the holiday season before it overtakes you is to focus on Step 10 all day every day starting right now.

  1. Carefully watch yourself for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.
  2. When you notice any of these stop yourself; take a moment and ask God to remove whatever it is.
  3. Have mentors, sponsors, or wise persons of some kind that you can talk to regularly ready for your call, email or visit.  Whenever you feel one of these come up talk to one or more of them about it as soon as possible.
  4. If you did something that was wrong to someone else in that situation (even if that person did a whole lot more to you before you did anything and you feel he or she deserves what you did) you must make amends quickly.  Don’t let their crazy become your relapse because you are determined to prove some point (that would in reality be your crazy)
  5. Have somebody or a couple of people you are helping through recovery (sponsoring) during the holiday season.  You need to be the mentor, sponsor, or wise person of some kind that someone else can talk to regularly ready for your call, email or visit as well as working that person through the steps through the holiday season.
  6. When you perceive that someone else or some group of “someone elses” is throwing crazy into your world remember that love and tolerance is our code.  That means to respond lovingly and be as tolerant as is humanly possible of whatever it is that is going on.  Remember that other people’s crazy does not have to be contagious.  If they are in fact acting crazy, that is their sickness, if you get sucked in and start acting crazy also their sickness has spread like some plague to you with the potential of wreaking havoc in your world and possibly even causing your death.

A huge point to take away from all of this is that you have to start responding to the problem before it starts to build up.  Plan these things and make sure the people described are in place now.  Intentionally start living this way daily for the whole day so as the holiday season kicks into full gear you will already have the habit of living this way. 

…we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Change your mindset about all of the things listed from some things you do or from a Step you have to do or finish and begin to think of these things as a “way of living”.  You have to be so in the habit of thinking and acting in these ways that they simply become who you are and what you do.  These not only become how you think, but these things become the reasons behind why you think what you think.  You have to progress from:

  1. Have to – You do these things because you are told to in recovery and you realize you have no other good choice
  2. Want to – You do these things because you have done them for a while and you have started to feel good when you do them and to be able to handle hard to handle situations.  Doing them begins to be associated with feeling good.
  3. Is you – There is no longer any thought that goes into doing these things.  You have done these things so consistently and for so long that they are as natural as breathing.  These things kinda just happen (even if you don’t feel like it)

Also, take a second to ponder the word “vigorously” used in the previous passage.  In that “have to” phase (when you first start trying to develop these habits) these things seem time consuming, like a lot of work and possibly silly to some of us.  It will seem like really hard work to many of us at first to do these things.  You are going to have to “vigorously” push yourself to do these things in spite of how you feel.  Keep in mind that our feelings are important, but are often not the best guides for our lives.  Just because you suddenly feel like using or like punching someone in the face, that does not mean you should.  Just because you don’t feel like doing some of the proven recovery stuff doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either.

In the words of some excellent tennis shoe marketers:  “Just do it!”


Grow this way of living.  Why?  Here is one person’s answer:

I have since been brought into a way of living infinitely more satisfying and, I hope, more useful than the life I lived before. My old manner of life was by no means a bad one, but I would not exchange its best moments for the worst I have now. I would not go back to it even if I could.”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 4243)

Recovery: Change of Heart, Thought and Attitude

Recovery:  Change of Heart, Thought and Attitude

…it should be pointed out that physical treatment is but a small part of the picture. Though you are providing him with the best possible medical attention, he should understand that he must undergo a change of heart. To get over drinking will require a transformation of thought and attitude. We all had to place recovery above everything, for without recovery we would have lost both home and business.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 143)

Recovery is not just about doing things and being able to check the boxes that mean you did each thing.  Recovery requires a complete change of:

  1. Heart
  2. Thought &
  3. Attitude

Recovery requires not only a change in the way you think but a change of why you think the way you think.  Many people believe that the way recovery works is to live the rest of your life thinking the same way and simply ignoring the self-destructive thoughts.  Others believe that in recovery you will stay basically the same person but your thinking will somehow change in spite of being the same.

If you are going to change your thoughts and attitude you are going to have to change the reasons you have those thoughts and attitudes.  What I am getting at is the fact that if you are very advanced in addiction/alcoholism you either change completely or you stay the same.  You cannot think the same way and do different things (for very long).


Think of those of us at the worst levels of addiction/alcoholism who try to quit on our own.  We know that quitting means not doing it again.  We decide to quit and are firmly resolved to staying abstinent. Yet suddenly we use again.  In some of these instances we tell ourselves some insanely trivial reason why this particular time does not count as relapse even though we know that any use at all means I have no longer quit.  The problem is not just what happens after I start using.  The bigger problem is my attitudes and thoughts immediately before I use again.  What was going on in my mind that made me think it was okay to do something I was firmly resolved not to do?  Something that I knew to be so self destructive and so destructive to all of those around me.

So we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem.

What sort of thinking dominates an alcoholic who repeats time after time the desperate experiment of the first drink?  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 35)

But there was always the curious mental phenomenon that parallel with our sound reasoning there inevitably ran some insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink. Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out. Next day we would ask ourselves, in all earnestness and sincerity, how it could have happened.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 37)

“Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out.”  Whatever happens at the moment we decide to use cannot even be called sane and definitely cannot be considered a time when we are in control.

If we do not change the entire basis of why we think the things we think, we will still end up thinking the same thoughts.  This change is the basis of recovery and should be the desired result also.

Many of us who frequent Alcoholics Anonymous meetings hear this stated regularly and often miss or ignore this fact. For example, if you are familiar with something called “The Promises” one of them is:

Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 84)

That is a desired result and in the list of promises it is really the summary of some of the results of this change of attitude and outlook.

Why is all of this important?  The truth is that if you are going to gain this new footing for your thoughts and attitude to stand on, you will need to be willing to let go of your old footing.  To have a change of heart, the old heart has to be removed to allow the change to happen.

A huge goal for your recovery is to not only change who you are, but to change why you are who you are.

If the reasons you do and even think thinks you think have led you to do things that destroy your life and the lives of those around you then those reasons are probably wrong.  You probably need new reasons!


In the Alcoholics Anonymous book, Carl Jung is quoted as having put it this way:

The doctor said: “You have the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you.” Our friend felt as though the gates of hell had closed on him with a clang.

He said to the doctor, “Is there no exception?”

“Yes,” replied the doctor, “there is. Exceptions to cases such as yours have been occurring since early times. Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 27)

Recovery is going to require that you have “huge emotional displacements and rearrangements.” Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of your life have to be cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives must begin to dominate you.

That is the change of:

  1. Heart
  2. Thought &
  3. Attitude

Are you open to that?  That is what recovery must look like if you expect it to work!  Being able to say you did this or that will not keep you sober if each these things do not lead to change in your life.


Wade H.