The holidays can be the worst time of year for anyone suffering from substance abuse. Overcoming addiction isn’t something you can do alone, no matter what your drug of choice. The holidays are a severe time of loneliness if you don’t get treatment. Addicts have often burned a lot of bridges with family and friends. You really have to utilize the skills drug rehab gives you to get through this time of year and prevent relapse.
- Rhonda, A Recovering Addict
For many, the holidays are a time for merriment, a time to be spent celebrating with family and friends. However, for those recovering from a substance abuse, the holidays can be a time of worry, stress, fear, and of unforeseen triggers that can cause relapse.
While the holiday season and the festivities that surround it can be a relapse trigger, there are a few steps you can take to prevent relapse such as:
1. Be Judicial: Holiday parties, social get-togethers, and family gatherings, many of which may have alcohol present, can put you in high-risk situations. During this time it is important to choose to be selective of the events you attend. For instance, if you know a certain party or gathering will have alcohol and make you uncomfortable, skip it.
However, if you do attend a party where there is alcohol present there are a few other preventable steps you can take such as:
- Bring your own beverage, or let the host know about your situation ahead of time so they will have a selection of nonalcoholic beverages to choose from.
- To avoid peer pressure, pour yourself a glass of club soda with fresh fruit slices. While it appears to be a glass of spirits, you can fit in with the crowd and keep your recovery in tact.
- Have a friend accompany and keep an eye out for you.
- Ask another person in recovery to be “on call” for you to check in with during the event for additional support.
- Come up with a standard response as to why you are not drinking that may vary depending on the type of holiday event: “I don’t drink anymore,” “I am not drinking tonight,” “I am on medication and cannot have alcohol,” “I am the designated driver tonight,” etc.
2. Take Care of Yourself: Put your sobriety first and pay attention to what your body and mind need, and what you need to remain on your path of recovery. Ignoring your needs and becoming sick during this time of year can add more unwanted stress and worry. For instance:
- Work extra hours if needed in order to distract yourself. Focusing on the things you can control can help keep you on track.
- Learn to say “no” if you do not want to attend an event.
- Attend extra mutual-help group meetings during this season.
- Take care of yourself prior to these events: get enough sleep, eat regularly and healthier, exercise, relax, etc.
- Find new holiday activities and traditions that you may never have tried in the past such as: volunteer at a soup kitchen, go ice skating, have a sober get-together and gift exchange, see a movie, take a trip, etc.
- Be honest with loved ones if you are having a hard time and let them know how to support you.
While surviving the holidays may seem daunting, they don’t have to be. By following some of these tips, an individual in recovery can prevent relapse and the negative consequences that accompany it. And remember, we are always here to help.