Caron Recovery Ambassadors shared their holiday experiences with us and the valuable lessons and tips they learned along the way from their first year in Recovery to today. 
Virginia R. - Stay in the Present, Be Prepared and Put Your Sobriety First
[For those new to recovery,] acknowledging that the holidays can be stressful or triggering is the first step. Being aware of “people, places and things” is important when navigating any holiday season. Stay in the PRESENT. We can’t predict the future or fix the past, so try to surround yourself with the ones who support you. Don’t be afraid to let others know you’re in recovery and almost ALWAYS, the love and encouragement you receive will blow your mind. Remember….we can’t do this alone. 

My first holiday season in recovery was less stressful than I expected. Only because …. I was prepared. I had a game plan before I went to any holiday party or gathering. My family was also part of that plan. If I found myself feeling uncomfortable, my strategy was to graciously leave the party.  I didn’t have to do that, but having an action plan was key. I also reached out to people in the program for encouragement leading up to an event. Sharing your apprehensions in a meeting about an approaching holiday season helps you gather courage and confidence from the wisdom of others in rooms. 

I failed (many times) at trying to get sober on my own. It was at Caron where I finally figured out that the only way I could stay on a path of recovery was to PUT MY SOBRIETY FIRST!   I make certain that meetings and fellowship are a priority. I truly believe that staying close to my friends in AA & Caron during a busy holiday season is what keeps me focused on my sobriety. It’s all about balance too!  Remember …it’s one day at a time. Have fun this holiday!  
Jason A. - Have an Escape Plan and Focus on Gratitude
Plan Ahead.  Have numbers available to call or meetings you can get to nearby if needed.  It’s okay to step away from the gathering to take a breath and reset.  Drive separately if you can. Have an escape plan.

I didn’t expect to be offered drinks like I was that first season. I also didn’t expect that saying “no thanks” or “I’ll just have a soda” didn’t cause a big reaction. No one really cares that much. 

I always bring a homemade or special dessert to the host and focus on the food and family and friends aspect of the holidays. I fill my holiday cards with gratitude statements.  I go to meetings before and after holiday events to stay centered.
Maura M. - Have Gratitude and Compassion for Others
I admit, my first holiday season in recovery was tough. I was used to guzzling wine when I cooked. My family supported my recovery by not bringing alcohol to our celebrations, so that helped a lot. But holidays were always alcoholically festive times & gave me the excuse to drink. My family was watching me like a hawk. As years passed, alcohol free celebrations became the norm. I had cravings for the first few years, but I was taught to breathe through them & they'd go away. There are times I see a commercial that shows ice clinking into a glass & alcohol being poured over. The sight & sound bothers me still, but looking back at where I started, I am horrified about going back to that awful place. Step One! 

Advice for the newly gratitude every day for finding help for your sober journey. Your friends & family might be tough on you, but they are acting out of love & concern for you. You've scared them for a long time. The trauma of a family doesn't go away just because you are not drinking. Have compassion for yourself as well as your family & friends. They want you to succeed. All this is new to them, too. Just for today, don't drink. The days add up! Sober Holidays are Happy Holidays! 
Larry G. - Connect with Others in Recovery and Avoid Triggering Situations
I make sure I know what meetings I'm going to. I check to see if the meetings are still open, as a lot of meetings are in churches and can be affected by the holidays.

I connect with and set up times to do things with other people in recovery (I do this actually independently of the holidays). I also set up regular times each week to call and check in with those people. A mixture of newer people and people with more experience than me.

I very carefully choose the situations I put myself in, making sure not to return to the negative situations where I struggled or was isolated, that were unhealthy for me before.
Robert C. - Stay Busy, Don't Isolate and Have Patience
This really is such an important topic to speak on. Not only for the holidays but birthdays, weddings and all the events that pop in our lives. I have gone through the last two years of recovery and have lived in a residential treatment center for my first year. We could not go home for the holidays. On top of that, some patients had families come visit for the holidays but others, like myself, did not have family visit. 

My advice, make sure not to isolate!  Try to stay busy. No matter your religious beliefs, pray! Prayer is very important, pray for those in and out of the rooms. Pray to find love in the holidays.  Be appreciative of the people in your life. Remember, this is the first brick of the amazing house you are about to build, and staying clean during the holidays is one of the most important pillars for that house. Help others! See if you can help serve food to the homeless or look into the Salvation Army or other charitable organizations. And try and remember that recovery gives us hope to be a part of many holidays to come. 

My first holiday in recovery was just two years ago, and I was in a long term treatment facility and I was living in residential. I am not gonna lie, holidays were rough, but it felt amazing walking through that fear and getting to the other side. I kept busy. I went to a meeting. I helped cook with other clients. But I did get upset, I did cry. I let myself feel those emotions. I told myself I can't wait for future holidays when I am with my family and enjoying the holidays as I used to. I was not able to call my daughter, that was rough. But I talked about it with other addicts. And I heard from other addicts and how they are making it through. 

I celebrate now and can enjoy the holidays more now than any time over the last few years of using.  I am able to spend time with friends in recovery. I have spent time with my sponsor’s family and celebrated with them. I did not put myself in any triggering position. I went to meetings. I kept myself busy with others in recovery. 

Stay grateful. No matter what I keep gratitude close to my heart.   Thank you for letting me speak on this, this not only will help others, but typing this reply helped me gain perspective.
Sean H. - Park on the Street and Remain Teachable
My mind makes a big deal out of everything and I have a tendency to only ask for help in the areas I THINK my recovery community can offer. That fact is as true today as it was in year one. I need help from outside myself to stay sober and useful to others.

I left Caron in September 2010. To sum up my 30 day experience, I had “come to believe.” Come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as I had been living it and come to believe that this thing you all had going just might work for me.

But I wanted to drink every single day. I only had brief release from the obsession when I was talking to another person in recovery. My family did not want me living at home and I slept in a semi-finished garage of an Oxford house with three other men. Looking back I think my biggest financial expense was putting a buck or two in a basket 3 or 4 times a day, seven days a week.

By October my family and I were reconciling. That’s way too strong a word, reconciling. My spouse, who had served me with divorce papers, asked if I could help host Thanksgiving, a tradition we had begun with extended family for 10 years. I immediately said yes and got excitedly to work! 

I brought up the situation at my home group beginner’s table and sought counsel from all the premier recovery experts in my recovery community. I TOLD them:
“I’m not going to shop for the booze.”
“I’m going to really study the chapters ‘To Wives’ and ‘The Family Afterward.’ I’ll memorize them if I have to!”
“I’m going to scout out all the meetings that are open on Thanksgiving Day so if I need to leave I have a place to go.”

I told my family and anyone that would listen about MY plan. Keep in mind I wanted to drink at many points of every single day. 

The day before the Day I opened the beginning of the meeting with my plan. I saw a lot of friendly smiles and nodding and maybe even a few mumble “good jobs”. I was ecstatic. Then one of the stoic elder-statesmen of my home group introduced himself to share. I had been hanging on his every word for months. He didn’t talk a lot but he carried a message of depth and weight. About a week after meeting him he shared that he’d gone off to “Chit Chat” rehab in 1983 to get his family back, sharing that he drank soon after returning to our small mid-western town. He explained then how he lost his family and was still addressing the damage he had done almost 30 years later.  He was describing my potential situation in real time.

So that day before the Day I was ready to hear how great I’m doing and what great plan I concocted. 

He said, “Sean, don’t park in your driveway. Park on the street tomorrow before people start arriving.”  That’s all I remember him saying. The scenario immediately played out in my mind. Twenty guests arrive for the turkey and the fellowship and block me in. That fact alone could be enough to set me off at that point. I’d be trapped from escape in a house full of booze that’s packed with people that have a way of activating my character defects. I might have been as good as drunk, and for me to drink is to die. 

I parked in the street that holiday morning and had a wonderful day. I was still a little restless and irritable. I was discontented with my living arrangements. I was in debt with very few prospects on the horizon. But I stayed the whole day, threw myself into service to others and made it through, by God’s grace.

That stoic elder-statesman died two summers ago with over 30 years sober. I asked him once if I could do anything to repay him for his kindness and he asked me to try to do for someone else what I thought he had done for me. I spoke at a memorial for John that was attended by one of his sons and a few grandchildren. I shared that even though John could not get sober at first and did some irreparable harms, nevertheless he had taken that painful experience and shared it with many, many others. His darkest moments, placed in God’s hands, were the key to survival for others. I miss him terribly. 

My family life today is better than ever. I walk in this world a free man, with no obsession to drink or use drugs. And writing this short note today I’m reminded that “I don’t know what I don’t know;”  to keep an open mind and to quit playing God. 

So this holiday season I’m going to work on what my dear friend John once told me when I asked him to sum up the principles of the program:  “Remain teachable…”
Richard W. - Althacons and The Three-Fold Illness
Alcathons are a source of supportive fellowship during the holidays where local recovery Districts and Areas gather with potluck meals and often back-to-back speaker meetings presented by different recovery groups where experience, strength and hope are shared by people you may not have heard or listened to before where new insights can be tried. - A friend of Dr. Bob
Here in New England I’ve heard my recovering friends share in meetings that alcoholism is a three-fold illness: physical, mental & spiritual and the clever among us say at this time of year our illness is Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Years. 

Become a Caron Recovery Ambassador

Recovery Ambassadors are alumni, family members and friends of Caron who are the epitome of service in Recovery - providing support, encouragement and understanding to others who are looking for inspiration and motivation to follow the same path.

Need additional help or resources? Call Caron now at 800.854.6024