© by Robin M. Gilliam
The holidays are an exciting time. There are bright lights, big sales, time-off from work and big family gatherings. For an addict these – especially family gatherings – can translate into triggers that can send us head long into the rabbit hole seeking not recovery but our substance of choice. It could be a smell, a comment, a look, and getting the wrong gift or not getting a gift at all. Any of these could start the mental anguish swirling inside our head, telling us lies that we are not good enough or don’t deserve happiness or love or whatever other fear, doubt, and insecurity our addiction plugs into to pull us away from recovery.
For me, even after 25 years of recovery, the triggers go like this. Someone is having a big family celebration.
As much as I love to see my family – the depression can creep over me like a dark fog. Then the thoughts come, I’m all alone, everyone else has their husband and children. I don’t have any kids (story for another time) and my husband is usually working. So I am always alone. And my disease tells me that everyone will be standing at the door greeting me with a sad expression that says ohhhh its poor aunt robin – isn’t she pitiful.
As I get closer and closer to the family events the fog gets thicker and darker and anxiety starts to grab at my chest like a vice grip, not letting air in. However, when I get there, no one is waiting at the door with sad eyes chanting poor aunt robin and the party is spinning nicely without my self-pity at the center.
What is really amazing is that I experience this initial reaction before every family party. But after so many years in recovery, I know that first thought is not my fault. That is just the way the disease works – it starts to bait us with a nagging thought that bubbles up like a shaken can of soda until we can’t take it anymore and run to find a fix. These are called triggers.
What if there is a toolkit we could use to help us manage our triggers and strengthen our recovery? There is!
From November through December I will blog about the tools I have used to keep my recovery strong through the holidays. Hint – this is my 26th holiday season in recovery and I am going to strap on the same tool belt!
Robin M. Gilliam is an artist and author in long-term recovery since February 6, 1991. Read her powerful recovery novel, Gift of Desperation, to meet Claire and journey with her out of addiction and into recovery. Robin uses the healing power of art and the spiritual principles of the 12 steps to maintain her recovery and teaches these tools and techniques through her workshops. She is also a keynote speaker where she shares her journey to recovery and how others can do it too.