It can be difficult to be away from home and in residential treatment during the holiday season. At Bluff Plantation, we understand that. We do our best to create a safe, warm and festive environment for patients, allowing them to work on their recovery while still experiencing the joy of the season.

This year, we’ll decorate a tree, sing Christmas carols, play games and enjoy a holiday feast. It’s important to show our patients that they’re cared for, and that it’s possible to have fun and socialize without being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

But the holidays at Bluff aren’t all about the festivities. This is also the season for giving. An important lesson in recovery is feeling the joy and satisfaction that comes from helping others. We volunteer serving meals at the Salvation Army and collecting food for a local food bank. Both remind our patients that their problems aren’t necessarily unique, that there are many people out there struggling, and that being there for other people makes you feel good about yourself.

One of the most powerful lessons in giving occurred this Thanksgiving, when we visited an assisted living home. Our patients thought the home would be filled with family members who had come to see their elderly relatives. Instead, they arrived to find the home nearly empty of visitors.

Seeing older people alone was difficult for our patients. Many cried. Some got angry that residents’ relatives didn’t bother to show up.

Our counselors helped patients work through their emotions. But patients also learned something else. On that day, as sober individuals in recovery, they were there to lift the spirits of the residents of the assisted living home, to listen to their stories and relieve their loneliness. But when they were in active addiction, they would not have been capable of this – for the residents of assisted living, or for their own families. They may have been physically present with their loved ones during holiday celebrations, but in their heart and mind, they were somewhere else. For family members, being with someone who is using alcohol and drugs can be every bit as lonely and isolating as being alone.

After participating in these activities, our patients told us they felt both humbled and inspired by the experience to continue working on their recovery, so that they could continue to be a person who has something to offer others in need.