It’s time for the holidays, which means a chance to eat, drink, and be merry. But for those struggling with an alcohol addiction, 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 an alcohol addiction, 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 and awareness are the most potent lines of defense in attempting to combat a significant problem.
As an addict, 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.
Start with a plan. Stay focused on your goal of sobriety and prepare a list – even if it is mental – of ways to enjoy the celebration without alcohol. Get outside and throw the football or catch-up with friends and loved ones you rarely see.
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.
Bring support. Have a family member or friend support you as you attend gatherings. They can help guide conversations if needed, or help if you need to leave.
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.
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, this is an opportunity to practice not being in denial.
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.
Sara Acre, Lifeskills South Florida Director of Family Services, recommends residential or outpatient treatment when struggling with alcohol use disorder. Lifeskills 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, transitional living and alumni care.