Let’s return now to remaining keys to grieving loss this holiday season and beyond:
4. Because addictive, compulsive behaviors sometimes act as social lubricants (supposedly making it easier to be around others), you may find yourself feeling awkward without the drink in your hand or the porn apps ready to go. Hopefully, you have already been practicing social connection and fellowship before the holidays. Your addiction was a often a way to feel less and to regulate the distance from others which leaves you with the challenge to pursue safe and productive relationships.
Action Step: Pace yourself knowing that there is no cookie cutter approach to connecting with others. You get to choose how much, how little and with whom you want to invest your energy. Find a balance. Try not to go beyond your capacity and don’t hibernate either. Be mindful of the social anxiety it may bring up for you and ask for help when you may need it.
5. Chances are you didn’t surround yourself in the past with the most supportive people. They may have been participating in their own self-destructive behaviors and oblivious to your true needs. Now it’s time to distinguish between your people and the rest of the world.
Action Step: Who are your dolphins? Those who play well, have your back, communicate effectively and look after you when you’re sick. Identify your dolphins and cultivate these relationships. Let your dolphins know you’ve chosen them to be in your pod and try to create additional contact with them. Distinguish between those who support your recovery and those who get in the way of your recovery.
6. The holidays are a great time to reflect on where you’ve come from and where you are in your recovery today. One way of doing this is to say goodbye to your addiction for once and for all.
Action Step: Write a goodbye letter to the addictive, compulsive part of you. Begin by writing a paragraph or two giving thanks to your addiction. For example, I know that compulsivity was a survival strategy that helped me cope with a chaotic family and lots of fear. In other words, list the ways that your addiction served a purpose for you. Then, write a few paragraphs to say goodbye to your addiction.
7. Grief can be described as the gap between what you wanted in your life and the reality of your current life. The gap can be large or small but either way it leaves you with lots of feelings including sadness, disappointment, hurt, resentment, disillusionment, just to name a few.
Action Step: Describe in detail how you imagined your life to be at this point and acknowledge how it’s different. Go ahead and make a gratitude list of ten items you enjoy about your life. This will feel bittersweet to take a closer look at the losses so be sure to share this with someone you trust. Read the Acceptance prayer from the Big Book (page 449) daily. Gratitude and acceptance will be your allies as you grieve the loss of the fantasy of how life was supposed to be.
Both trauma and addiction is based in helplessness—a feeling that you’re trapped and have no options. Long-term recovery brings forth a feeling of empowerment full of limitless choices and possibilities. Grief is not a choice, but grieving is absolutely a choice. I encourage you to grieve the losses as you make room for more fulfilling relationships, greater intimacy, and most of all, love .