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Valentine’s Day is a special event for many couples, although the candy, flowers and intimate dinners may seem a little out of place when the other half of the duo is in recovery. When facing the perplexing problem of how to best celebrate Valentine’s Day with a recovering loved one, here are some suggested approaches.
KEEP IT SMALL
Things tend to get out of hand or could escalate into an uncomfortable and unmanageable situation if holiday plans call for attending a large get-together, social outing or crowded venue. Not only will there likely be temptation from seeing others partying heavily, drinking and carrying on, but it’s also likely lead to a feeling of being left out, deprived or punished. After all, a recovering loved one has made a commitment to sobriety, and being around others who have no limits on their celebratory actions could be a downer.
The solution: Keep any celebration of Valentine’s Day with your recovering loved one small and simple. It isn’t necessary to go all out, spend a lot of money and be in the presence of boisterous, possibly inconsiderate friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members or even strangers. In a controlled and comfortable setting, such as the home, both you and your loved one can concentrate on the essence of what Valentine’s Day means to you. Be loving. There’s no better way to celebrate this special day.
AVOID KNOWN TRIGGERS
The likelihood that unexpected triggers will occur will be minimized with careful planning. Instead of going to a big event where alcohol will be served, stick close to home or go out to dinner with close friends who are supportive of your loved one’s recovery. If this day has been particularly stressful in the past, keep it simple with a nice greeting card or a favorite homemade dessert.
Some in recovery, however, are sensitive to romantic holiday celebrations, preferring to avoid them due to memories of past behavior, disappointments and pain. Understand where your loved one is coming from in this regard and don’t push. If he or she seems receptive to a quiet, intimate celebration, go for it. If not, be sure to state your love and support clearly. Just be there for your loved one.
It should go without saying, but sometimes the most obvious way to celebrate this day is to express your affection for your recovering loved one in words and deeds. There’s nothing like a hug, a kiss, a gentle touch or massage across the shoulders and back to show affection and caring. Simple, straightforward words also convey the sentiment. Say “I love you” and smile when you do it.
Remember that recovery involves more than the person who’s learning to live in sobriety. It’s a family affair. Often, it’s the tight bond of the nuclear family, beginning with the spouse, that solidifies and strengthens the support and encouragement the recovering individual needs most. By showing affection, you’re reinforcing not only your love, but also your commitment to your partner’s recovery goals.
DO SOMETHING MUTUALLY ENJOYABLE
Have some fun on this special day by engaging in a hobby, recreational pursuit or activity you both enjoy. There’s an immediate lift of mood when couples share an activity they find mutually satisfying. Besides spending time with your loved one, you’re helping to enrich your relationship. The smiles, laughter and unique moments of sharing are both personal and unique. It may take some scheduling or planning to break away from other duties and responsibilities to take time for fun together, but the results are worth the effort.
Whether the activity is walking in nature, going to yoga, playing a game of chess, working a puzzle, getting creative in the kitchen, checking out redecorating ideas, frolicking in the snow, watching a comedy or luxuriating in a couple’s massage, if you both find pleasure in doing it, what a terrific way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your recovering loved one.
MAKE PLANS TOGETHER
Part of what makes a couple’s bond enduring is their willingness and commitment to making plans together. For the loved one in recovery, his or her sobriety must take priority, but this doesn’t mean you can’t be a big part of that ongoing plan. In fact, your support is integral in its success. Learning new ways to cope with stress, manage cravings and urges, find new outlets for expressing talents and showcasing abilities is easier when your recovering loved one knows your support is rock solid.
While finding his or her way in recovery is sometimes confusing and difficult, it can also be uplifting, energizing, hopeful and productive. Making plans to do things, go on a day trip or a vacation, check out opportunities, reconnect with friends, decide on a home improvement project, join a gym together – what the plans are matters less than the fact that you work on them together. Valentine’s Day, with its message of love and commitment, is a good time to start.
USE THIS DAY AS A SPRINGBOARD
One of the best things about holidays, even those like Valentine’s Day that aren’t regarded as official ones where people get the day off from work, is that they’re sprinkled throughout the calendar. These are natural breaks, reminders to slow down, appreciate the day, do something special and celebrate life. This is also a convenient time to make use of the day as a springboard toward future goals and plans. Everyone needs a break, to give themselves time to think and dream and discuss what matters. Those in recovery also benefit from structure, and there’s a certain structure in the regularity of holidays that can help or hurt recovery.
By exercising good judgment, acting in love, showing your support and encouragement on Valentine’s Day – and every holiday – you’re demonstrating what it means to be a full partner in your loved one’s recovery. Be hopeful. Be loving. Be there for each other.