By David Joel Miller
The holidays can be a tough time for many people.
The season comes with high expectations. Things you should do, should have and should be. Compared to your expectations this season can be a disappointment. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you are thinking about who you wish you were with and they are not there it can be sad.
For some folk the only visitors this season will be the demons: sadness, depression, guilt and self-doubt. Rumination and revisiting the past can generate all forms of unhelpful thoughts.
Loneliness is often accompanied by his pal, emptiness, that giant-sized hole in your middle. There are a host of way you might try to fill that hole and keep the loneliness at bay. Most of these loneliness cures promise to make you feel better for a moment but at a long-term price. They will reach for the things that only work for a short while. Let’s talk first some things that are unhelpful then review some suggestions for coping with holiday loneliness.
Spending your way to happiness is unhelpful in the longer run.
This season is the time for the annual binge behavior. Many people expect to gorge themselves on things in an effort to make themselves feel better, feel adequate. It is a short trip from treating yourself to a new gadget to thinking that your self-worth depends on your ability to spend and spend.
Don’t have the cash? You can dine on a diet of debt. Many people will be vomiting up their money for the year to come after the overindulgence of debt spending.
There is no magic pill for feeling lonely.
This holiday season people around the globe will look for all manner of substances to satiate that uneasy feeling that they are not what they should be or that what they are is not good enough. Drugs and alcohol are chief among those things that will be abused aplenty.
Some people will discover this holiday season that they too are candidates for an addiction or alcoholism. One dose of your drug of choice makes you forget what is bothering you but at the price of becoming dependent on that drug. Addiction is a gift that keeps on taking.
If you have a health challenge, physical or mental, a diagnosed illness, medication can be important. But no medication changes your unhelpful thoughts and makes your loneliness vanish.
The kind of drug most people will take this year, the self-prescribed alcohol or street drugs, will let you forget your discomfort for a moment at a high long-term cost.
Do not let the wolves in the door.
When you start to feel that loneliness knocking at your door it is tempting to let all kinds of harmful people in. People will hook up and reconnect, often with the people who have caused them the most pain. It is tempting to let a dangerous person into your life to keep loneliness at bay, but that creature may destroy you latter.
Avoid dogmatism, fanaticism and revenge.
Dedicating yourself to a cause and trying to annihilate those who disagree is an intoxicant. Trying to make yourself less alone by launching a program of forcing others to agree with your politics, religion or other dogma, may divert your attention from your unhappiness for a while. Inflicting pain on others will never heal the wound in your heart.
Stalking and seeking revenge keeps you connected to the person who harmed you and maintains the pain. Do not believe that someone’s departure from your live is the sole cause of your loneliness. Living the best life possible now is the cure for the loss of someone from your life.
What does work to keep loneliness from entering your life?
Being alone does not equal being lonely.
If whenever you are alone you find yourself feeling lonely and frantically looking for something or someone to help you feel better, the problem is that you have not learned to be comfortable in your own company. Learn to like yourself, become your own best friend. Discover the ways that you can please yourself. In other posts past and future we can talk about things to do when you are alone that are positive and nurturing of you.
Reconnect with positive people.
The holidays are a good time to reach out. Mail or email someone who was a positive influence in your life that you have not talked with in a while. Plan to visit some old friends and some younger ones. Take yourself back to some places that are filled with happy memories.
Pain, loneliness and regret have a way of pounding on your door. Happy memories wait patiently outside that door for you to invite them in.
Seek out supportive people and give them the opportunity to feel good by being of service.
Self-help groups, 12 step groups in particular, have all kinds of events this time of year. They conduct marathon meetings, potlucks and social events so that recovering people do not need to be alone for the holidays. Seek out others in recovery.
Visit a positive online community.
Leave comments, read blog posts, interact with other recovering people. Know that others may be waiting for the blessing of your comment. Look for the good in others and share the best in you.
Practice your religious or spiritual tradition.
Feeling that you are connected to something greater than yourself is an antidote to that empty feeling. Make time this holiday season to think about what you think is important and why you chose that belief.
Feeling a connection to a power greater than yourself can help turn that feeling of loneliness into a feeling of purpose. Practice those ceremonies that make meaning for you. Prayer, meditation and ritual all put you in proper connection to your higher power.
Alone need not mean lonely.
Just because you are alone this holiday season does not mean you have to be lonely. Alone is on the outside and lonely is on the inside.
What will you do this holiday season to help your recovery and thwart the loneliness creature?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books
Don’t let the holidays make you feel lonely.