Avoiding Holiday Relapse
The holidays can be especially challenging for individuals struggling with alcoholism and substance use disorders. During this unique, traditionally focused season of celebrating with family, friends, and co-workers, people with addictions can feel more vulnerable and alone than ever.
An awareness of the specific challenges faced by people newly on the road to recovery — as well as those who have navigated the twists and turns in the road for many years — is critical to avoiding relapse at this time of year. Education about the risks and preparation for unexpected challenges are both crucial to a successful outcome. Reminding oneself of exactly what’s at stake may also help the individual stay strong in the face of challenges such as family encounters and stressful travel experiences that may accompany the ever-present physical, emotional and holiday financial fatigue.
Facing long-standing emotional triggers involving family members can get pretty complicated during November and December.
For the individual in recovery who may be estranged from immediate family, the grief and sorrow can be debilitating. Likewise, if family members have passed on due to death or illness these losses can be especially hard to bear during the season of light and love.
Journeying cross-country to visit loved ones may cause the person struggling with alcohol and drug addiction to be physically separated from the personal support of his or her trusted therapist, sponsor or alumni recovery partner.
Dealing with time changes, living out of a suitcase, renting a car, struggling with directions and even sleeping in a childhood room with all the memories associated with the familiarity that place – both good and bad — can also throw recovering people off their regular routines. Expect the unexpected and prepare accordingly.
The pressures of gift giving at a time of year when money may already be tight due to year-end taxes, donations, and work obligations can also be very stressful. If you are someone who struggles with compulsive shopping addiction or gambling, the perception that money is tight could lead to overspending and risky behaviors.
Following are a few suggestions to help make the holidays less stressful:
- Skip any social function you feel especially nervous about. It’s OK not to go.
- When stress arises, take a moment to stop and inhale three deep, slow breaths.
- If you are traveling to visit family or friends research the city you are going to find out when and where meetings are, then go.
- If away from your support network have lots of phone numbers, your sponsor, your sober friend’s, people you can call on day or night if anything arises, remember you are not alone.
- If you are going to be alone for the holidays, make plans not to be. Reach out to supportive friends and plan to attend meetings.
- Be of service. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, reach out to a new comer, visit older neighbor who has no one.
- Maintain your spirituality, even if you are really busy and hectic take a few minutes every day for relaxation, reflection, and meditation.
If you or someone you know needs help contact us 24/7 877.843.7262.