Isolation isn't the first thing we think of about holidays. When we think about staying sober during the season, we wonder how we'll navigate parties and how to say "no, thank you" when offered a cocktail. But holidays actually can be a time of loneliness for many without close families and friends.
Isolation is one of the main things to avoid in early recovery and trying to stay sober. Isolation causes loneliness and a feeling of detachment from society. Feeling detached can lead to drinking. Isolation also leads to anxiety, which can lead to thoughts of drinking or drinking to calm our nerves. In other words, isolation isn't good when trying to stay sober!
So, what can we do to avoid loneliness and isolation?
Be around people we don't even know - go to a park, coffee shop, mall, or any other public space. Enjoy the bustle of shoppers, the pretty decortations, the music piped into shops, the smells of baked goods and candy wafting through towns and malls everywhere. It's bound to lift your spirits and you'll feel a part of the holidays!
Connect or reconnect - write Christmas cards, call friends or relatives, reach out to coworkers. This is a time where reconnection is almost expected! I've reconnected with friends I've lost touch with by sending a card with my phone number and email. The end of one year and the beginning of a new one is full of nostalgia - and "auld lang syne" or “old times fondly remembered."
Find a 12-Step meeting. I don't know where you live, but I can't throw a rock without hitting a meeting (if I could throw). You don't have to say anything at the meeting, just pour yourself a cup of coffee (believe me they will have coffee), grab a folding chair, relax and listen. Some of the most inspiring stories are heard "in the rooms." And, who knows? You may make a friend.
Volunteer - so many food banks and shelters need help year round, but especially around the holidays. I remember my husband and I driving up to a womens' shelter one year to donate some housewares. Children came running up to our car, asking us if we had brought any toys. With tears in our eyes, we drove to a local toy store and loaded the car to bring back to the shelter. It became a yearly tradition. That's just one place out of so many that need our help - and helping others helps us too.
Not isolating or being alone can take some effort to overcome, but it's worth the effort. We humans are social beings, and isolation isn't good for our mental health or well being. Staying sober isn't just about not drinking. It's about our wellness - physical, mental and spiritual.
Tomorrow is Tip Number Nine. I've enjoyed writing these, and hope they've helped or made you smile.