Updated on 1/31/2023
Valentine’s Day can be one of those days when it can seem like the whole world has something you don’t. Any festive holiday that occurs when you are feeling sad, lonely, confused, dealing with loss, disappointment or grief can make it seem like everyone else is living in a Norman Rockwell painting and you are on the outside looking in. Even if you feel safe and content in the current moment, past unpleasant experiences of that particular holiday can overshadow the present. And when the holiday taps into personal fears such as, “I’ll always be alone,” or “No one loves me,” the emotional blow can be intensified. In cultures like ours where troubling feelings are not easily or openly shared, the temptation to use unproductive behaviors – eating, drinking, dieting, drugs – can be overwhelming.
If Valentine’s day is one of these triggers for your substance use disorder (SUD) or mental health disorder, know that you are not alone. This holiday is extremely painful for many of us who have lost a loved one, experience feelings of loneliness more deeply than others and who believe that we are not deserving of love. Some alternatives to destructive behavior exist, but they require more effort and take longer to work. Nevertheless their effects last longer and create a base upon which you can continue to change.
Write a Letter or Valentine Card to Yourself
Write a letter or Valentine card to yourself or yourself as a child, expressing sadness for all that you have gone through in your life, forgiving yourself for all your flaws (real or imagined) and expressing your absolute, undeniable, unconditional love. You do not have to write about your good qualities, because this love does not depend on you having any, but if they come to mind, share with yourself some of the things you are proud of, grateful for or happy with in your life. Tuck this letter in your journal or a safe place so that you can refer to it when you are feeling unworthy. Read and re-read this letter to remind yourself that you are never truly alone as long as you are alive, and that you are deserving of forgiveness and peace no matter what you have been through.
Purchase or Make a Valentine for a Loved One You Have Lost
Purchase or make a Valentine’s card for a loved one you have lost, whether through death, the end of a relationship or any other kind of loss. Spend time browsing through greeting cards or with your craft supplies until you have found or created a card that expresses your feelings as exactly as you can. Write a personal message if you wish. Share your creation with a trusted support person, counselor, or support group, keep it with your sentimental items or place it in a mailbox addressed to Heaven, God or The Broken Hearts Club.
Send a Valentine/Letter to Someone Who Might be Feeling Lonely
Send a Valentine or a friendly letter to someone (or more than one person) you know who may also be feeling lonely at this time of year. It doesn’t matter if it arrives in time for Valentine’s Day, and it doesn’t even have to mention Valentine’s Day or loneliness – there is never a time when an expression of love or friendship is unwelcome. If you prefer to write to someone you do not know, send a letter to a soldier or a veteran. Start the letter “Dear Hero,” “Dear Service Member,” or “Dear Veteran” and share a Valentine’s Day greeting or other friendly thoughts. You can also look up your local Meals on Wheels program and bring one or more handmade Valentines there. They will deliver them to their homebound clients. Don’t worry if they don’t respond or send a Valentine to you. Send it as a way to remember that you have the amazing power to lift a spirit, even if you are not feeling particularly spirited at the moment.
Write a Letter to Your Addiction in General
Write a love letter to your addiction in general. Describe how your addiction has hurt you and why you would like to break up with it. Write about past breakups if you wish. Detail your goal of loving yourself enough to leave instead of settling for a substance that cannot return your feelings. Even if you do not yet believe that you will be strong enough to follow through with your plans, write them out, explaining why you have found it so tempting to stay together with your addiction, and why you want out. Share your letter with someone who can help you take steps to follow through with your plan. If you do not have an individual or group to support you, or if you find that what you have written feels frightening or upsetting, call Casa Palmera and share what you have written.
Above all, know that no matter what this holiday brings, there is always hope and always a potential to change. Casa Palmera is here to help you take that step. Contact us today.