15 Ways to Celebrate without Food or Alcohol (Plus 1 Bonus)

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I recently discovered that the word “celebration” comes from the Latin root celebrare, which implies groups of people assembling together for the purpose of honor and praise. This is why we as Catholics say that we “celebrate the sacraments.” Celebration by its very nature includes sharing with others. Knowing this gives me great hope that I can indeed celebrate and maintain my recovery through any season.

The wonderful thing about 12-step recovery is that it is, by its very nature and by this definition, celebratory. In that spirit, here are fifteen ways I plan to celebrate without food this holiday season and beyond. My recovery siblings in other programs can use these same tools to celebrate without alcohol or any of our other unhealthy attachments.

  1. Service in fellowship: Whether I am leading a meeting in one of my fellowships or sharing my voice at a business meeting, service shows that I honor my fellows by taking our shared recovery seriously.
  2. Service in my parish: Our family looks forward every year to our parish’s “giving tree” program, which gives us opportunities to buy gifts for people of all ages in need in our area.
  3. Service in my community: This year’s calendar includes Christmas caroling at a local nursing home.
  4. Service through creativity: I thought recovery would steal my time. Instead, it has given time back. The time I used to dedicate to pursuing my addiction is time I have used to take up my childhood hobby of crochet. I’ve been crocheting hats, gloves, and washcloths for a local domestic violence shelter, doing my small part to restore honor to the suffering.
  5. Play: Whether breaking out a board game to play with friends and family or organizing a pickup game of your favorite sport, play honors our loved ones with the gift of time.
  6. Snuggle with a pet: Who says that the others I honor have to be people? When enjoying our furry friends, we give praise and honor to the God who gave us dominion over His creation.
  7. Take a lap: Honoring your physical limitations, take a lap around your local park, neighborhood, block, or even your bedroom. We honor God when we prudently move the bodies He gave us.
  8. Spend time with nature: Whether you take that lap in a park or are only able to watch the sunrise out of your window, we connect with God when we take real notice of His direct gifts to us in the natural world.
  9. Warm socks: We are never alone when we seek conscious contact with the Trinity. Acknowledging even God’s smallest gifts to us, like warm socks on cold days, helps us celebrate God’s goodness in all things.
  10. Throw a gratitude party: Get some fellows or other loved ones together either virtually or in person and see who can create the longest gratitude list. Even better? Challenge yourselves as a group to list 1,000 gratitudes.
  11. Compliment a stranger: Getting over our fears of being thought “weird” helps us live like we have choices but not control—a major tenet of recovery.
  12. Compliment a loved one: The family disease of addiction chips away at our shared honor. Do your part to restore that honor by bestowing a sincere compliment with no expectations attached.
  13. Sing along with your favorite song: We honor God’s gifts of talent when we celebrate beloved musicians through our own voices. Bonus points if you can get others to join in.
  14. Dance (or at least exercise): God gave us bodies for good purpose. When we move our whole selves, we honor His wisdom in creation.
  15. Celebrate the sacraments, especially the Eucharist: The very definition of gathering for the purpose of honor and praise, the sacraments connect us with God, body, mind, heart, soul, and strength. Receiving the Eucharist worthily, especially after receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, restores us to the honor God wants us to have as the beloved children He Himself nourishes with love and care.

BONUS—Attend the annual Catholic in Recovery Christmas Marathon Meeting: This beloved tradition starts at 9:00 am Eastern Time on Christmas Eve. The party doesn’t stop until 10:00 pm Eastern Time on Christmas Day. That is 25 hours of sharing praise and honor with others—a real celebration! Join the Christmas Marathon Meeting by Zoom using this link.

Erin McCole Cupp is grateful to be recovering from compulsive overeating, binge eating behaviors, and developmental and betrayal trauma. She writes and speaks about mental health and addiction recovery from a Catholic perspective. Look for her course “Filled With Good: Theology of the Body for Food Addicts” at erinmccolecupp.com.