Recovery During The Holidays

Holidays are generally a time of joy and celebration but for many people the holidays can be a painful reminder of years past where anxiety, trauma, and addiction took precedence over all other things in life. Holidays may be anniversaries of past traumatic events and times when addiction was out of control resulting in damage to oneself and/or others. The residents of Magdalene House have experienced both addiction and trauma. Many have the diagnosis of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). People who are in recovery from addiction and trauma may experience triggers during this time of year.

Triggers are reminders that contribute to feelings of wanting to use (addiction) and feelings of re-experiencing the trauma in the case of PTSD. Internal triggers are things that go on in your mind that put you at risk of relapse. One acronym used frequently to describe internal triggers is HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. These are considered red flags for people in recovery. External triggers include people, places, and things that are associated with past addiction or trauma. External triggers may be difficult to avoid during the holidays since family and friends are often the people who contributed to or facilitated trauma and addiction.

While some people may be able to distance themselves from people, places, and things, they are still vulnerable to triggers. Planning ahead for the holidays can help to mitigate triggers or minimize the impact. It is suggested that people be aware of what to expect during this time before committing to activities. While it is logical to assume that people in recovery should avoid places where it is likely that alcohol or drugs or people using them or people who contributed to an individual’s addiction and/or trauma (external triggers) are present, they should also assess the likelihood of internal triggers. A woman who has lost custody and contact with her children may find going to a holiday function where children are present uncomfortable, triggering feelings of guilt and self-blame.

Feelings of guilt and self-blame are common triggers during the holidays. Once in recovery, it is difficult to avoid looking at past holidays where one was emotionally and/or physically absent (incarcerated) during this time of year. Parents may not have provided an environment of cheer and joy for their children or other family members. Holidays may have been disruptive and chaotic because of trauma and addiction. Guilt and self-blame can be powerful triggers, especially in early recovery when people have not yet learned how to forgive themselves. Negative, painful feelings can lead to relapse in an effort to numb these feelings.

Recovery is not just stopping an addiction, it is committing to a sober life-style, the way a person lives. Being sober during the holidays may be a unique experience for someone in recovery. It is an opportunity to establish new traditions and learn new coping skills when faced with reminders of past, not so pleasant holidays. Some residents at Magdalene Serenity House just celebrated their first sober holiday on Thanksgiving and are looking forward to new traditions, new people, places, and things as the new year approaches.

Resident Success Story

Coming out of prison and having a safe place to call home and the only thing I have to worry about is me getting better and staying sober has been such a blessing for me. I’m able to rebuild my relationship with my children that I haven’t seen in 3 years. I’m now able to see them and rebuild relationships with other family members after 3 years. This program has been a huge life changer for me – Magdalene Resident.

Resident Achievements

  • We remain at full-capacity. Our residents are flourishing and we are proud of their hard work!
  • One of our residents purchased a car!
  • One of our residents flew to San Diego to attend her son’s graduation from the Marine Corps boot camp. We are so glad she was able to share this special moment with him!
  • One of our residents is preparing to graduate in February. Volunteers have been helping her get her house ready for her and her children.
  • Our residents have started their own jewelry line. Check out the jewelry for purchase. 50% of the sales goes directly to our resident artist, while 50% goes back into the jewelry program.

We Are Grateful!

This month we have received a number of generous donations to support MSH:

  • Thank you to the Bradberry family who made a major, multi-year gift in honor of their mother Karlee.
  • Thank you to our matching donors at the Smokehouse Players event, Greg & Hannah Lee, Brenda & Bob Gullett, Bob & Linda McMath, and an anonymous donor. With your support we were able to raise a total of $6,845!
  • Thank you to Bikes, Blues, and BBQ for their $2,000 gift to support our program.
  • Thank you to the Fayetteville Newcomers Club for their monthly donations of items for our household.
  • Thank you to all of the volunteers from St. Paul’s who have helped our next graduate fix up her house.
  • Thank you to all of our supporters who have purchased items off of our wish list.
  • Thank you to all of our volunteers who transport our residents to appointments, work, and the grocery store. And to those who provide weekly programming for our residents.
  • And to all the folks who have donated this year to help us continue to provide innovative, holistic care to each of our residents. It truly takes a community to heal and we are grateful for your support of our program!

Upcoming Events

We are proud to partner with Holidaze, a charity pop-up bar! From December 15-31, 25% of all sales will benefit MSH. If you have not made it to Holidaze yet, get down to the square and check it out! AND mark your calendars for the special Holidaze events below. It will be sure to be a festive and merry time for all!

Gratitude Project

This holiday season residents have been working with staff and interns to develop a gratitude practice. Gratitude can provide opportunities to improve self-esteem and increase resilience in trauma recovery work. MSH residents have participated in a 6-week program where they have created works of art and composed hand written thank you’s to community supporters to show their gratitude. We are feeling very grateful around here!