Learning how to cope with the holidays when you’re on your own takes practice and planning

I know a lot about how to cope with the holidays when you’re not on good terms with your family because I had to do it for years. I’m not saying it’s easy or enjoyable every moment because it’s not. For me, there was a lot of despair and discomfort in those years, but they led me to the relationships I wanted with my family members. The discomfort and hard work paid off for all. In my situation, I had to do some changing and so did other people. We were fortunate that everyone did their own work and we were able to come back together with time. The holidays, however, were always difficult.

Acceptance is the answer to our problems today

A number one is coming to terms with the fact that it is natural and normal to feel sad and alone when you are not with family on the holidays. Society, media, TV, can all tell us there’s something wrong if we’re not in a conventional family model. We see happy families in movies and advertisements and it drills home that something must have gone terribly wrong if you’re alone on the holidays. If you happen to have low self-esteem, that will add to pain and heartache. You might feel you deserve this or that things will never be OK. Stop that right there. You don’t know what’s going to happen down the line so don’t makeup stories. Whatever the reason you are estranged from your family, it probably needed to happen. You pushed someone too far and they need space or they’ve caused too much destruction in your life and you need to stay safe. That’s your reality. Accept it for right now and take care of yourself.

Make plans or have a plan

Once, I invited a half dozen friends from an AA meeting over for Thanksgiving because none of us had places to go. That was actually quite fun and festive. No one fights, and you get to eat what you want. I think we may have even watched reality TV. Bliss, I tell you. Make plans with friends, sober people, marathon meetings, whatever. There are plenty of recovery spaces available throughout the holidays and many people are in the same situation as you. Find them and commiserate. If you hate people and people-y things then make self-care plans. Exercise, massage, Netflix time, pet care, cooking, creative pursuits, reading a good book, just do the things that make you feel happy. This is the best way to cope with the holidays in my mind – spending it nurturing yourself and your spirit.

Connect, Call, Zoom

Who can you call when you feel lonely? Prepare and think about who might be a safe person to connect with over the holidays. Whether it’s a coffee, a call, or seeing a movie, make sure to connect with other humans. If you don’t like in person, check out Zoom meetings. Since becoming a Buddhist and joining Rotary, I’ve learned there is so much you can do to connect with other people in meaningful ways that don’t even require small talk. I’m in book clubs, women’s groups, and more. These groups keep a lot of people connected that might otherwise be alone. They also create bonds around things you can feel good about and shared interests.


I volunteer and do community service all the time through my Rotary club and nothing else brings me such joy. We collect school supplies for kids in need, we help kids in foster care, we do food drives, and lots more. How many times have you thought I wish I could do something but have not known what to do? There are groups to help with that! There are so many people in need right now. If you are not hungry and homeless you might want to help the people who are. Even The Salvation Army needs volunteers for the Red Kettle Program. Reach out and help. You’ll like yourself for it.

New traditions baby

Maybe having holidays fight-free and with food of your own choice is a real treat! Make some traditions that fit with your life. Make a meal for yourself and your pets. Watch scary movies. Whatever floats your boat. Personally, I love going to the movies alone. Make these long days something to look forward to with activities or special activities that make you happy.

Gratitude and spirituality

It could be worse. We could be in Ukraine. Be thankful for what and whom you do have. Be thankful for animals and weekends and coffee and whatever else makes your life livable. Learning how to cope with the holidays alone gets easier if you can get spiritual about it. See what’s happening from a bigger perspective and find compassion for yourself and others. If you’re not religious, try starting with guided meditations and see if that does anything for you.

You are going to be alright this holiday season. Don’t relapse, don’t despair too much, and don’t hurt yourself or anyone else. Hang in there because when you get to the other side, it’s so worth it.

More Articles To Read About Surviving The Holidays

How To Be Single, Sober And Happy On The Holidays

Holiday Boundaries For New Viruses

Holidays And Alcohol In Recovery

How To Stay Connected Through The Holidays

Why I Won’t Be Home For Christmas

Why You Should Leave Holiday Expectations At Home

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Lindsey Glass

Lindsey Glass is the co-founder of Reach Out Recovery. Her 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World Of Recovery, has helped to lift the stigma from addiction and recovery and is used in recovery programs nationwide to show what life is like on the other side of addiction. Lindsey's teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, was distributed to PBS stations nationwide by American Public Television in 2014-15. Lindsey has written dozens of popular articles on recovery. She is a recovery advocate and frequent keynote speaker. Lindsey is the author of 100 Tips for Growing Up, My 20 Years of Recovery, 2019. Before focusing on recovery, Lindsey was a TV and screenwriter. She has worked in publishing, web development, and marketing.

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