How to stay clean over the holidays

Holidays can be a difficult time for many addicts. There are family get-togethers (or the distinct absence of them), workplace Christmas parties, financial and time pressures, and expectations of alcohol consumption. New Years in particular is a holiday associated with a common expectation of drug and alcohol consumption. No matter how much clean time we have, no addict is immune to the stressors of this time of year.

Here are some tips on staying clean over the holidays

When attending any type of party or festive gathering, have an exit strategy. Even if it’s a family event, don’t feel obligated to attend, and if you do choose to attend, make sure you have a way to leave quickly should the need arise. Take your own car, take a friend in recovery who has a car, have a trusted someone on stand-by to pick you up, whatever it looks like for you, have an exit strategy and stick to it.

Know where and when the nearest NA meetings are. Whether you’re at home or out of town, find out where and when the meetings that will be open on the holidays are. Ask around, Google it, check the NA websites. Just make sure you know where and when the meetings around you will be open.

Don’t forget to use the same strategies we use every day. Keep in touch with your sponsor. Reach out to other addicts. Stay connected and don’t isolate.

Always remember your recovery has to come first. Take care of yourself and stay safe!

Have some tips we left out? Feel free to leave them in the comments!

Keep what we have by giving it away

There’s been a lot of talk in our area this past year about falling short on our commitments to Hospitals and Institutions. Our H&I committee has consistently struggled to get volunteers to go into local detox and treatment centres to share their experience, strength and hope. When members do volunteer, some are cancelling last minute or not showing up at all, and the ones who follow through seem to be the same few members, placing an unnecessary burden on those members. While other fellowships are sending drivers to detox daily to bring suffering addicts to meetings in the community, drivers from Narcotics Anonymous are rarely showing up.

Those with a year or more clean time should step up and occasionally donate an afternoon or an evening of their time. “… We can only keep what we have by giving it away…” p. 35. We hear it at every meeting we attend, in the reading What is the Narcotics Anonymous Program. In the same sentence, we read “… The newcomer is the most important person at any meeting…”. Before they can be newcomers, they are sick and suffering addicts who need to be told where they can find a meeting, that “… a simple way has been proving itself in the lives of many addicts and it is available to us all…” p. 113.

Whether it’s their first or fiftieth time there, those addicts in detox and treatment centres can all be considered newcomers. Detox and treatment centres are unique environments with large audiences of suffering addicts in a state of desperation. “…Through this desperation, we sought help in Narcotics Anonymous…” p. 45. They are in treatment because they have “…reached a point where we could no longer continue using because of physical, mental and spiritual pain…” p. 46.

There are reasons why volunteering is helping yourself; “…By sharing the experience of our recovery with newcomers, we help ourselves stay clean…” p. 125. There is literature, and there is the real life accounts of the addicts in our lives. Our sponsors, our sponsees and fellow homegroup members.

I accumulated some clean time and then went back out for many years. When I became desperate, I went to detox. I had first hand experience with the Narcotics Anonymous program, proof that it works because it had worked for me, but it wasn’t until an NA member picked a small group of us up for a meeting, until I attended that meeting and heard the message of those in attendance that night, that I made a decision to come back into the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous. Today I am clean and I am an active member in the NA community.

Another local addict went to detox feeling suicidal and hopeless after decades of using. He wasn’t even going to come out of his room when two members of NA visited to share their stories. He is grateful that he did,because of how strongly he identified with the story coming out of a stranger’s mouth, as if it could be his own. An NA driver returned that evening to pick up for a meeting, and this addict has been attending meetings, doing service and most importantly, staying clean, ever since.

Another addict has been a resident at a local men’s treatment facility, a facility where NA members visit twice a month to facilitate NA meetings. This addict expresses the importance of these visiting NA members,not just to himself but to the other men in the treatment centre. These men look forward to these meetings facilitated by NA volunteers, many of them wish NA members would come more frequently to facilitate NA meetings. Many of them make the most of their weekend passes by attending NA meetings.

Another addict with several years clean reluctantly agreed to travel to a local treatment centre to share his story. He later shared in a meeting about the impact of the experience, not just on the residents at the centre, who he had chance to speak with after speaking, but on his own recovery.

If you have a year or more clean time, please consider giving back in one of the following ways:

-picking up from Barrie detox and driving addicts to meetings in the community, and day of the week, to any local NA meeting

-traveling to Greenstone in Bala on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month, evenings

-facilitating a meeting at the Waypoint mental health facility in Peneteng on Wednesday evenings

-men only; facilitating NA meetings at Hope Acres every other Friday