Surviving the Holidays
Honoring your Recovery this Season
The Holiday season is upon us again. Whether we celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, Rohatsu, something else altogether, or none of the above, the annual festivities abound. For many, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. A crisp layer of powdery snow blankets the ground, joyful music fills the air, and the lights and decorations create an atmosphere of celebration.
For the recovering addict, though, the holiday season isn’t all jingle bells and mistletoe.
Reunions with our families can stir up old resentments and visceral shame for our past misdeeds, and no matter how much inner work we’ve done, our histories with our families are a potent trigger for the resurgence of our shadow material. We remember our time on the naughty list, the hurt we’ve caused others, and the ways they’ve hurt us, too. To add another chestnut to the fire, conflicting developmental stages, political beliefs, and personality types are a recipe for a relapse into old patterns – especially when the eggnog starts to flow.
Many recovering addicts, though, face the ghosts of Christmas past take a different form. Our addictions cost us everything, including our families, and the pervasive narrative of the Hallmark Christmas magnifies our feelings loneliness and isolation. Memories of happier times threaten to drive us back into addictive and destructive patterns, and the lure of escaping our pain is powerful.
In today’s episode of the Journey of Integral Recovery, John Dupuy, Dr. Bob Weathers, and Doug Prater take a deep dive into Surviving the Holidays, sharing their experiences, suggestions, and strategies for managing the discomfort and inevitable challenges of sustaining our recovery this season. From stepping up our Integral practice with deeper meditation and more intense exercise, to creating emotional mindfulness of our shadow reactions, to strengthening our ties with our supportive friends and recovery communities, the trio of Integral Musketeers offer a cornucopia of practical tips to keep you safe, sober, and growing into the best version of yourself.
The greatest gift we can give this season, to ourselves, our families, and the world, is our recovery. This holiday season, let’s renew our commitment to deepening our connection with spirit. Let’s give ourselves the gift of forgiveness, healing, and understanding. Let’s remember, especially when things get challenging, that we are none other than spirit. And that, dear friends, is something to celebrate.
[1:05] The holidays, believe it or not, can be challenging for addicts in recovery. Whether we find ourselves alone, or with a family with who has had its issues, we need a strategy to maintain our peace of mind and sobriety.
[3:00] Why is visiting our families such a challenge? What do we do when old issues, grievances, and resentments surface?
[4:15] What does it feel like to be face to face with those we have hurt, and how does the contrast between the environments we find ourselves in magnify the uncomfortable feelings we face when we return to visit our families?
[5:45] Our lifelong interactions with people from the past continue to have a hold over us, and this is doubly true for important relationships and for formative ones, like our relationships with our families. How do we maintain our boundaries and our changed sense of self in this situation?
[6:33] The tendency to withdraw and to hide, and how the tendency to return to old patterns of shame viscerally returns in the presence of others
[7:54] When our families haven’t necessarily seen the day-to-day progression of change on our journey of recovery, we no longer match others expectations – which can be equally uncomfortable for both us and our families as we continue to grow, heal, and change. And, just as we don’t want others to make assumptions about us, we must be equally careful not to presume their reactions
[8:24] When visiting family, we must do our best to remain mindful of our reactions and our resurfacing feelings as they happen in the moment. When we observe our feelings and our reactions from the perspective of the witness, we won’t be swept up and controlled by them
[9:01] Bring your own vehicle, if you can, so you’re not stuck in an uncomfortable situation without an escape hatch
[9:52] In times of greater stress, practice MORE, not less. If you have to get up early, get up early. If you need to excuse yourself from a room, then do it. But meditate more, exercise more, and take care of your mind, body, emotions, and shadow through practice.
[10:57] If you have a family that tends to drink a lot, the best option may be to simply decline the invitation. Your sobriety is the most important thing in life right now, and it’s not worth jeopardizing it. Do what’s necessary to keep your recovery intact.
[12:41] Looking at addiction from an attachment perspective, we’re looking at both the desire to shrink away from exposing ourselves to others, yet simultaneously, a longing to connect. In both cases, addictive behavior is related to connection, so the holidays are bound to stir up our demons either way.
[15:05] When we’re caught up in the longings or repulsions of the moment, it’s easy to forget our resources. It’s important to make a plan ahead of time, when your head is clear, and set yourself a solid intention to remember to be mindful in the moment, or to practice, or to excuse yourself from the situation. The “implementation intention” makes us more likely to “do what we know” in the heat of the moment.
[15:30] We’re all at different levels, different stages. We all have different personality types, and as we engage with our families, we’re all in different states of mind, as well. Visiting our families during the holidays is an opportunity to compassionately observe our differences with the understanding that, while we may not see eye to eye with someone, they’re making the best decisions and living the best life they can based on current psychodynamic location. We can listen, observe, and meet them where they are.
[16:55] Our family members may not reciprocate our magnanimity, though, so how do we avoid allowing the lack of reciprocity to trigger our shadow reactivity?
[18:03] On the journey of Integral Recovery, we have to make a new family. We need contacts we can rely on, because our families may well trigger our neuroses. If we have people, though, who we can call or connect with online, then we have a touchpoint to check ourselves when we’re feeling off-center.
[19:20] There may be allies in your family, or their may be people who have a particular tendency to set you off. Have a plan for spending time with or avoiding these people, and if we need to separate ourselves to protect our recovery, it’s always worth it to do so.
[20:41] Shameless plug: The Freedom of Forgiveness is a particularly useful tool for the holidays, as we forgive others and forgive ourselves. It allows us to move from resentment and shame into acceptance of ourselves and others. Use it in the coming weeks, and take your copy with you to practice when you need it. And for Dr. Bob Weathers, who leads this guided meditation, it’s not an academic exercise – it’s the work he’s done for himself, straight from the heart.
[22:47] Even with a strong desire to be alone and retreat, addiction as an attachment disorder is permeated by a sense of loneliness and longing to connect. For those who, in the course of their addiction, have lost their families, how do we deal that loneliness and longing?
[24:50] Sometimes, we just have to let go, expressing our pain, our hurt, our loneliness, and our longing – and we can do this through whatever means of expression we connect with. Whether singing out loud, writing, drawing, playing music, exercising, or whatever the case may be, lean into catharsis and allow it to flow.
[28:05] Anything we can do to get ourselves to recover and reaffirm ourselves is a brilliant method of counteracting our tendency to shrink. Playing the drums, for example, is a testament to our right to exist, and nothing is more self-affirming than allowing ourselves to be a vessel for the expression of spirit and Big Self.
[29:11] All the work we’ve done through meditative practice to deepen our connection to the higher self is most critical when the small self is tested. By leaning into art, music, dance, or anything that allows us to connect with the divinity around us, we move outside of the small self’s limitations and the baggage of the ego-self.
[30:49] Whatever we can do make the holidays special for others, especially children, is one of the most rewarding ways to step outside the ego-self. When we’re in service to creating joy for the ones we love, we also create it for ourselves
[32:42] Playing with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or others, allows us to lean unabashedly into the innocence that belongs to all of us, and that our addictions have tried to take. Opening to that spirit by allowing ourselves to play helps us reclaim our connection to the inherent goodness of our own original face
[34:22] New Year’s Eve comes with it own challenges, as our contemporary culture has turned it into a holiday of bacchanalian intoxication. What if we, instead, used it as a time for self-reflection? Can we deepen our meditation, ask for guidance, and renew and honor the cycle of life?
[35:45] We can connect with spirit, examining where we are, where we’re going, and what we’re meant to do. We can examine the times we fell on our face and ask for guidance and direction to help us course correct on our life’s path and do what we’re supposed to do in this world.
[36:42] It’s not just about asking what we can do for our own lives, but what we can do for the whole of the human family. The world is a crazy place, and New Year’s is an excellent time to reaffirm our commitment to making it just a little bit better for all of us.
[37:20] Even when we make resolutions at New Years, have we examined the origin of those resolutions? Are we using our will correctly, moving towards goals that are truly life-affirming and meaningful, or are we focused on the small, ego-centric desires of our current cultural atmosphere?
[39:21] In the Integral Recovery community, we make resolutions every day. We practice every day. New Year’s isn’t a time of making new resolutions, but of giving ourselves to grace.
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12/15/2017, 42:09, 28.95 mb (Audio)
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