October 3, 2016

Apples and Honey, but No Wine: Here’s How the High Holidays Can Support Your Recovery

Apples and Honey, but No Wine: Here’s How the High Holidays Can Support Your Recovery

A plane ticket home can burn a hole in your heart. Just thinking about how you’ll handle your family’s controversial politics or misaligned values can make even the calmest among us look around desperately for some way to make it through dinner. If you’re someone who has traditionally leaned on alcohol to get through the High Holy Days, you’re not alone; the alcohol industry makes a quarter of all its sales during the last quarter of the year, the holiday season.

If this is your first High Holy Day season in recovery, you know you’ll need a new plan to deal with the craziness or just plain rudeness that family seems so good at pulling out. Before you decide to cancel your trip home altogether, consider the ways you can use this family gathering to support your recovery instead of poking holes through it.

For example, chances are good that while you were using your drug of choice, you ended up making a few choices that you now regret. Although they are usually the last people we want to hurt, over the years our family and loved ones often bear the brunt of these mistakes. Once a situation has passed and months if not years have gone by, it can feel awkward to bring up an experience no one is proud of.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish holiday celebrating a new Hebrew calendar year and the holiday immediately preceding Yom Kippur, is all about reflecting on the past and making amends with those you have wronged. Citing this holiday and its imperative to seek out and make amends with those we have hurt is the perfect opportunity to bring up and apologize for the way you’ve acted in the past. Speaking to someone about a perceived wrong will also give them an opportunity to air out any feelings they’d like to share too, giving you both stronger footing in your relationship moving forward.

The holidays also give you an opportunity to create new, positive memories with your family to replace the ones you wish were different. Unfortunately, there’s no way to go back in time and undo what was done, whether you showed up to services or a meal drunk or never showed up at all. But don’t let your disappointment over what you did or didn’t do get in the way of enjoying your family now. 5777 is a new year and a new experience.

Always wished you’d made it to that dinner in 5774? Come early this year and help your mom prep the side dishes. Secretly missing how “fun” alcohol made an otherwise tense dinner? Try introducing the whole family to an innocuous but fun game that you can play around the table – taking everyone’s minds off the squabbles of the past.

Most importantly, remember to take care of yourself first. If you think seeing your family all together will prompt you to use, give yourself a pass from the occasion guilt-free. Find other ways to spend time with the family members you want to see. The people who love you will completely understand what a priority it is to you to maintain your recovery, and they’ll do everything in their power to keep you there. Protecting your life from relapse is one act you’ll never need to repent for.

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About Constance Scharff PhD