For most people the holiday season is a time for joy and celebration, but it can be stressful. And stress is a key risk factor in substance use disorders. While stress during the holidays can happen to anyone, for people with addiction issues such as financial problems, family conflict and general stress are easily amplified, and intense stress frequently triggers substance use in addicts or relapse in people in recovery.
One of the hallmarks of the holiday season is the perceived obligation to buy gifts for friends and family. Finding the right present for everybody in time and at an affordable price can be quite the challenge. Feeling obliged to be home for the holidays can cause stress and anxiety as well.
Whether in active addiction or recovery, people with addiction often misjudge the risks the holidays present and ignore their condition to participate in family gatherings, office parties, and similar events. This behavior may result in dangerous drug and alcohol use.
How to Prepare For The Holidays
Chance favors the prepared mind, as they say. Don’t get caught off-guard at that office party which could turn out to be a trigger-rich environment.
Plan your family visit carefully. Research meetings in the vicinity that you could attend if things get ugly. Attend a few extra meetings before your departure to fortify yourself. Get all the emotional support you need.
Rehearse your responses. Know what to say when offered a drink or drugs. If at all possible be open about your recovery: most people will support your decision to forgo addictive substances. If you want to keep it confidential, be determined to decline any offers. Practice beforehand how to say no politely.
Most family dinners and office parties will feature non-alcoholic beverages but if your anxious about drinks, bring your own alcohol-free drinks. Avoid people who might tease you about not drinking alcohol.
Evaluate each situation. Decide how risky a scenario will be for you. Avoid high risk situations in early recovery. Leave early if need be.
Know your triggers. The acronym HALT stands for a list of the most common triggers: being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Take care of yourself, mentally and physically, to ward off these triggers. Use your coping skills.
Many people with addiction relapse when the stress becomes too much for them. Being mindful and recognizing the stress for what it is will make it easier to resist the urge to self-medicate. So when stress hits you, take a timeout and meditate. Push away any thoughts of using. Work through cravings one at a time. You got this. Your recovery is too important.
If you are in active addiction but ready to go into recovery, don’t delay addiction treatment because of the holidays. The holiday season may be all about bringing families together. But active addiction will put a severe strain on that idea. If family obligations lead to increased substance abuse, nobody will be the happier for it—especially if it lead to an overdose.
If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, the time to start recovery is now. Don’t hesitate to contact The Farley Center at Williamsburg Place at and find out about your treatment options. Recovery is the best gift!