The “Twelve Days of Christmas” we know today was adapted from an 18th century French holiday carol meant to ring in the New Year. Today our holiday traditions typically involve crowded shopping malls and overindulgent winter celebrations. This can be a time of year that those in recovery anticipate with some anxiety. According to the National Institute of Health, “emotional and stress responses plays a role in motivation to consume alcohol in people with alcohol use disorders.” Rather than remain overwhelmed with holiday stress, we suggest using the 12 days of Christmas as a time to practice the 12 steps, focusing on recovery and taking some of the pressure off what can be a hectic time of year.
In the song, the 12 days are traditionally the twelve days starting with Christmas Day. Beginning a new tradition doesn’t mean having to adhere to the old, but it would be recommended to have these days include the New Year, as this holiday tends to be particularly triggering for many in recovery.
By practicing a step each day, and focusing on just a very small number like 12 days, you can take an opportunity to do something that focuses entirely on your sobriety. With so much activity surrounding this season, it can be rewarding to take a step back from the demands and expectations of others and commit time entirely to yourself. A good practice for step 11 is allowing yourself the time to breathe, find a quiet place with access to light (the winter brings longer nights and shorter days, so light will lift spirits) and pray, meditate or write in a journal.
Another great activity can be found in steps 8 and 9, where there is an opportunity to do something positive for someone or for an institution in your life, that has caused you some resentment. You can make a donation or leave a box of cookies on a doorstep. Practicing this step for the 12 Days of Christmas doesn’t mean having to confront anyone, more that you do something to promote the spirit of the step for that day.
Making New Year’s Eve about service and the final step of the 12 steps will help you neutralize a day that is otherwise overwhelmed with people drinking and acting without restraint. . Remember the good will of the holiday season. Remember that there is always going to be an addict or alcoholic who will benefit from your time. By taking a new approach to the days surrounding the holiday, you can protect the most valuable gift you have- your sobriety!