The holidays are tough for people in recovery

By Judi Currie jcurrie@seacoastonline.com

DOVER — The holiday season is traditionally a time for celebrating with family and friends, but for people in recovery from addiction these gatherings can present additional challenges.

SOS Recovery Director John Burns and Rich Salvati, a capacity building specialist, said there are good options and the recovery community goes the extra mile to provide safe and welcoming environments.

SOS Recovery Community Organization is a collaborative of peers in recovery from substance misuse and abuse and their allies working together to create safe spaces and peer-based recovery supports throughout Strafford County. It has centers in Dover, Durham and Rochester.

Burns said there are regular annual events on Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as additional meetings.

The Triangle Club in Dover organizes an alcohothon, a 24-hour marathon of AA meetings, but because of the construction at its facility SOS Recovery hosted it this year, and held some of its own events as well.

“In Rochester we opened up the center on Thanksgiving day where we held 10 meetings for different recovery pathways and at 2 p.m. we had dinner,” Burns said. “It was open to all.”

Burns said there were people in recovery and a lot of homeless people as well. They had three turkeys and a lot of food and about 30 to 35 volunteers.

“About 50 to 60 people came through during the day,” he said. “The holidays are tough for people in recovery. It’s important we do everything we can to make supports accessible.”

Salvati said sometimes people in recovery really don’t like the holidays. “They may be estranged from family members or there’s been a lot of bad stuff in the past or they may have lost a parent,” he said. “Being in recovery just makes it harder.”

Burns said he was astonished by the number of volunteers who turned out to help, giving up a holiday of their own.

“What other segments can bring that many people together on a holiday just to make sure that other people are safe and have a safe place to go,” Burns said.

Salvati admitted he was pessimistic about getting the help but was wowed by the response. Burns said it was a small army of crews bringing food and donations and helping to set up.

As people in recovery head off to different holiday events and gatherings Burns said they must be mindful of their surroundings and have an escape plan.

“It’s not realistic to think that you won’t be exposed to alcohol at this time of the year,” he said. “Know your boundaries and be prepared … have a safety plan.

Burns said that is what recovery coaches work on, teaching those in recovery that it needs to be their number one priority.

“Recovery and addiction are so complex,” Burns said. “It’s different for everyone. But for me, the holidays are about providing as much connection as possible whether you’re in recovery or not. Treat people with compassion and empathy, treat each other with love, even if it’s a perfect stranger. The holidays are a good time to reflect on that.”

Salvati said recovery is simple: It’s not easy.

“When I came to work here I thought that I was a pretty open and loving and accepting person,” he said. “This organization practices a daily policy of openness and acceptance so I’m still finding…

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