It’s New Years Day 2021 and I’ve made it through my first Christmas and New Years without a drink or a drug, here’s my experience.

It’s been a very different holiday season this year, Covid and lockdowns mean people are spending the holidays in a much smaller or more isolated setting than usual. As well as restrictions and not being able to spend time with family in the way we might normally, the holiday period can generally be difficult and triggering for people who suffer from addiction.

I know personally with my first Christmas and New Year in recovery, spending a single day with family brought up some intense emotions. Being in the family home from my childhood, being around certain family members who you don’t see regularly and who had been triggers for drinking were all enough to ensure I woke up to an emotional hangover after spending just twenty-four hours at home.

It can all be hugely triggering, I found it to be a time machine that brought me back to old patterns of thinking and behaviour, my only solution to these situations previously was to drink or use to avoid facing up to how those situations made me feel, and for the first time I was not unable to use anything external to shift focus away or change the way I felt.

Zoom was certainly a help. This was my first sober Christmas and I was able to start the day with over fifty other alcoholics from all over the world all immensely grateful to be able to see each other, share some gratitude and start the day with an uplifting meeting. The pandemic has also meant that Whatsapp groups have become a bigger part of recovery this year and I certainly found that some groups were more active with members posting messages, photos and calling each other throughout the day.

After my own experience and speaking to fellows in the days afterwards, struggling at the holidays is something completely normal. It’s a stressful time of year with endless planning, stresses, family politics and relationships which can all push you to the edge, you might be isolated and lonely or you may be feeling a sense of fear or dread as the year draws to a close.

This time of year normally would bring about state of negative reflection and fear for me, I would worry that I haven’t achieved enough, that I’m somehow behind in life with yet another year behind me. This is not uncommon thinking even for people outside of recovery, you only have to look at the psychology behind new years resolutions to see that most of the people we know think this way.

This year was different through. Whilst I had some ups and downs over the holiday period, this was the first year I was able to look back and be quietly proud of my progress this year. I was able to write a gratitude list that looked back on all the positives, the new friends, a new outlook on life and being able to live a better life today thanks to my daily programme of recovery.

At a time when people’s fears are running at an all time high, when newsfeeds are constant updates about big changes people want to make to be a better version of themselves, I was able to sit back and honestly say to myself that I need to change nothing. I have a simple programme today and just need to follow the same path that has brought me so many gifts and positive experiences this year, it was so nice to be able to experience and embrace this way of thinking.

If you’ve been struggling please don’t get caught up in the negativity or the fear. Don’t focus on what you’re missing or still have yet to achieve, just look back on the things big and small you’ve experienced in your recovery. It’s a hard time of year for all of us, but we have tools to help us through and while 2020 has been a tough year for most, I think we as people in recovery have been the lucky ones in lockdown…

Here’s to everything we achieved this year in our programme, and wishing you all the very best for 2021.