Can you hear it?
The Christmas music is everywhere again. The radio. The shopping mall. At every live music venue near and far. It is darn near inescapable. And all of it (well, except for maybe this song) seems to be insistent on offering variations on a single message: It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Of course, plenty of people don’t feel that way at all. Any of the holidays near the end of the year—including, but certainly not limited to, Christmas—can be a major cause of stress. And if you are in recovery from a substance use disorder, those stressors can be even worse. You may have damaged relationships that you feel particularly sad about over the holidays. Alcohol might flow freely at the office Christmas party. You family might use the holidays as an excuse to air grievances (even if you don’t celebrate Festivus!) or quiz you about your recovery.
Most wonderful time of the year? Maybe not.
But there is a most wonderful present you can give yourself: ongoing sobriety. And one of the best ways to do that—around the holidays and throughout the year—is through service to others.
Don’t Undervalue the Power of the Small, Kind Gesture
Around the holidays, it can be easy to think that love and kindness are best demonstrated by grand gestures and expensive gifts. But small acts of kindness can have a big impact on the lives of others.
For example, perhaps you can help an older neighbor or family member hang their outdoor lights for the season. If your area is going to enjoy a white Christmas, you might help the neighbors dig out their driveways or jumpstart a car that has died in the cold. You can make donations of food or personal hygiene items to shelters and pantries (don’t forget that this sort of help is needed throughout the year, not just over the holidays). You could even simply tip your server more than they may be expecting just to brighten their day and demonstrate your thankfulness.
These small acts can make someone else’s day just a little bit better. And you get the benefit of enjoying the warm glow that comes with having done something kind. That’s a combination that can support your recovery.
Not sure how to get started? Check out Random Acts, a website filled with creative ideas, inspiring stories, and a great opportunities to provide financial support for acts of kindness.
Volunteering: Giving the Gift of Yourself
Odds are there are any number of organizations near you that rely on volunteers to do good things in the community. Offering your services—at the holidays or any time at all—is a fantastic way to give back.
Think about the issues and causes that are important to you. Maybe you could volunteer at a no-kill animal shelter (many shelters just need folks to walk the pooches!). Perhaps there is an arts and culture organization that needs volunteer ushers or someone to get a fundraising mailing ready to go. You could help out in the community garden or at a soup kitchen or food pantry. Maybe there’s a faith-based organization in your community doing work you would like to be a part of. Nonprofit and faith-based organizations are always trying to do a lot with a little—and are often perpetually understaffed. Your willingness to volunteer might make a bigger difference than you can imagine. And that willingness to help is frequently the only qualification you need to get started.
Volunteering is a great way to find like-minded people and to do some good in the world. Building up your support network and doing meaningful work are both excellent ways to support your recovery.
The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Becoming a Sponsor
Do you have a full year of sobriety to your credit? If so, it might be time to think about giving back to the recovery community by becoming a sponsor. For people in a 12-Step program, the sponsor relationship can be an essential part of a person’s efforts to maintain their sobriety. If you have been the beneficiary of such a relationship, you may feel called to provide that kind of support to someone else on the journey to recovery.
Becoming a sponsor is not for everyone, however (and that is perfectly okay). That said, if you think you might be interested in being a sponsor, you will need to have the following traits and skills:
- A strong desire and ability to model positive behavior in recovery
- A firm conviction that a commitment to recovery improves a person’s life
- An openness about your experiences and a willingness to share your hard-won knowledge
- A clear understanding of how a 12-Step program supports recovery that you can explain to others
- An honest and enthusiastic willingness to help someone in the early days of recovery stay on a good path through the 12-Steps—especially when it seems impossible
- An understanding that a sponsor and the person being sponsored must never enter into a romantic relationship
If you possess those characteristics, you may find becoming a sponsor to be extremely fulfilling. Sponsorship is an excellent way to pay forward the help you have received on your own recovery journey.
When It Comes to Recovery, ‘Tis Always the Season
At The Aviary Recovery Center, we know that the holidays can be a challenging time. But this time of year is supposed to be all about hope and new beginnings, and we are ready to offer you (or a loved one) the gift of both. We have the expertise—and the compassion—to make sure you have something to truly celebrate when you have completed rehab and started down a new path of ongoing sobriety. Give yourself the gift of a second chance.