It’s time for the holidays, which means a chance to eat, drink, and be merry. But for those struggling with an substance use disorders, it can be tough to navigate and can lead to heightened anxiety. The holiday pressures of money, family, and general stress can be difficult for everyone, but for someone with a substance use disorder, they can be amplified as they are often the triggers that began the abuse in the first place. The holidays can be an invitation for a destructive relapse, but education, self-awareness, and a solid plan are the most potent lines of defense in attempting to combat a significant problem.
As someone in recovery, surviving the holidays begins with being prepared. Most people know that the holidays bring additional stress, and the potential for unwanted issues to arise. Keep in mind these helpful tips when the celebrations begin.
Stay active. Boredom can be a huge trigger for some, so plan for ways to stay active. Get outside and throw the football, attend a yoga class or go for a walk to catch-up with friends and loved ones you rarely see. If you’re traveling out of town, research support groups in that area and put them on your agenda.
Bring your beverage. Bringing your drink to the festivities ensures you have something non-alcoholic in your glass. You may also find others who want to join you and limit or avoid the alcohol as well.
Know your triggers. Common triggers correspond to the acronym HALT – when you feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Knowing your triggers and how to manage them will help you avoid a relapse.
Don’t forget to eat. Lack of food can cause low blood sugar, leaving you tempted by alcohol. Eat a nutritious meal or snack about every three hours.
Keep your stress under control. Many people often turn to alcohol to cope with stress, walking away from stressful situations and decompressing will help to push away triggering thoughts. It is also important to make time for regular exercise…change a thought, move a muscle.
Bring sober support. Have a sober family member or friend accompany you as you attend gatherings. They can help guide conversations if needed, or help if you need to leave. Driving separate to social events is often helpful to allow for an early exit if the conversation or event gets too intense.
Rehearse responses. Social gatherings are the perfect time for people to talk about their past escapades with alcohol. While it may all be in fun, such conversations can be toxic to recovery. Excuse yourself, and engage in a different activity or discussion. Use a sensible strategy for turning down alcoholic drinks when offered and don’t feel the need to explain why you’re not drinking. A simple, “No thank you” goes a long way.
Take responsibility. There may have been damaged relationships due to your past behavior, and often during the holiday’s conflict can arise. Remind people that you are sorry for your past, but you are in recovery and in the process of changing those behaviors. This is an opportunity to practice being the person you’ve always wanted to be free from drugs and alcohol.
Most importantly, lean on your support system. Make time during the holiday season to attend a few extra meetings. Utilize your sponsor and/or recovery coach. Stay close to your friends and family that have helped you during recovery. If you feel overwhelmed or do suffer a relapse, reach out to your mental health provider.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, we recommend residential or outpatient treatment. Lifeskills South Florida is dually licensed to treat both substance abuse and other co-occurring disorders (often referred to as dual diagnosis), and offers a full continuum of care through residential care, outpatient treatment, and transitional living. Call us today or complete our contact form for more information.