Preparing Our Hearts for Christmas (Recovery Style)

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Happy Advent to my fellows in recovery! Christmas is fast approaching and many of us are trying to get things done to make our homes festive, including trimming the tree, decorating with lights, raising nativity scenes, and so on. As always, the Christmas season also comes with the need to purchase presents for loved ones, prepare holiday meals, and plan for joyful gatherings. 

However, these holiday festivities are often accompanied by free-flowing alcohol. That’s why we in recovery need to be extra vigilant during this time of holiday-related stress, anxiety, and worry about pleasing family and friends or getting everything done. It can also be a time of loneliness for many, which can be a trigger as well. The season can trigger all sorts of temptations to pick up a drink or drug, overindulge in food, or succumb to some other unhealthy attachment.

During these times, I do my best to consider how I’m preparing the stable of my heart for Christ’s birth to help maintain my recovery. Am I taking the time to praise and thank Him each day for all the great things He has done in my life? Am I quietly pondering Scripture in the stillness of each winter’s morning? Am I thinking of ways to reach out to those who struggle with sadness and loneliness, especially during this time of year? 

Remember, God desires that we take the gifts we find in the fellowship of recovery and share them with the world. We can share God’s love in many ways, such as buying or donating presents to a charitable organization, preparing a meal for a homeless shelter, or donating non-perishable foods to a local pantry. How about visiting or caroling at a local nursing home? One thing my grandkids and I did one year was color holiday placemats for the residents at our local nursing home. I’m sure many of you have your own God-given talents and ideas for how you can share God’s love with others.

The last couple of years have taken a toll on us all, and there have been a lot of reasons to be fearful. I’ve heard that the Bible encourages us not to be afraid around 365 times—one for each day. That means that we in recovery are called to replace fear each and every day with faith, just like the Holy Family did as they traveled to Bethlehem for the birth of Christ. They were met with hostility and traversed long treacherous paths on a donkey. But they trusted in God’s plan instead of cowering in fear. 

And we too can embrace faith instead of fear this Advent and Christmas season by adorning the stable of our hearts with the principles of recovery and a commitment to prayer and the sacraments. 

Are we being honest in all of our affairs? If not, we must seek the Lord’s gifts of mercy and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Are we being open-minded to all the Lord is asking of us or are we closed off to those who are “not like us”? Are we willing to go to any lengths to stay sober or do we find ourselves slipping into old behaviors, not attending 12-step meetings, and failing to be of service to others? 

We must take a daily inventory and seek direction from our sponsor and/or spiritual director to know the answer to such questions. And we must always remember to be vigilant and double down on all the gifts recovery has given us. 

During Advent and the Christmas season, we should desire to meet the Christ child in the stable of our hearts, presenting Him with our many gifts of recovery and more—for all that we have are His and without Him we are nothing!

What are some of the gifts and talents you can share this holiday season?

Who in your life is isolated and/or lonely and could use a friendly visit, call, or card?

How are you preparing the stable of your heart for the birth of our Savior?

By God’s grace, Kathy has been clean and sober since June 1, 2006, and is an active member of Catholic in Recovery. She also feels called to share the merciful love of Christ’s healing grace with all those suffering from the pain and wounds caused by abortion. On most days, you can find her at daily Mass, the gym, or caring for the needs of her family.