The holiday season brings about some of the most joyous parts of the year. From decorating the house and taking matching holiday photos to munching on seasonal treats and spending the entire days in your pajamas, there’s no denying that there are plenty of reasons to look forward to all the fa-la-la-ing that happens at the end of the year.
However, despite all the positive aspects of the holiday season, this time of year can also be filled with a number of stressors. Adults often find themselves in a whirlwind of hectic shopping trips, dinner planning, and preparing their homes for visiting guests. For some, even the simple idea of having to see certain family members during holiday gatherings can be enough to ruin the season.
While this pressure to create a perfect holiday season can be stressful enough for any adult, it can be particularly dangerous for those who are in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. In order to avoid relapsing during the holidays, there are several precautions one should take to ease stress, avoid temptations, and maintain sobriety.
Tips for Avoiding a Relapse During the Holidays
Remind Yourself Why You’re Sober
Especially in the days leading up to holiday gatherings or events, begin your day by reminding yourself why you’re sober. Aim to say or write down five reasons you should work to maintain your sobriety, such as your spouse, your children, your health, your job, or your happiness. Reminding yourself why you got sober in the first place can help you resist temptation and avoid a relapse.
Avoid Stressors When Possible
As we mentioned earlier, there is no shortage of stressful factors that present themselves during the holiday season. While you don’t need to avoid all holiday-related activities, there are several that you may want to steer clear of, when possible, in order to avoid a relapse. These can include:
Even for adults who don’t struggle with substance abuse, shopping during the holiday season can be one of the most stressful things one does all year. Between the madding crowds, long lines, and confusion over what to get everyone, even the simple idea of going near a shopping center can be enough to drive someone to drink.
If you must shop for everyone, try to do so online so you can avoid the crowds. However, if you feel overly stressed trying to figure out gifts for your family members, forgo gift-giving altogether this year. Your loved ones will surely understand and respect your choice to prioritize your health and sobriety.
Hosting Holiday Gatherings
Creating a menu, preparing guest rooms, organizing activities — planning a holiday gathering at your home can be extremely stressful. Especially if this is your first holiday season sober, you may want to consider letting someone else host the festivities. This will help you avoid a number of stressors that could put you at risk of relapsing.
Be Wary of Holiday Parties
It seems that everyone takes holiday parties as an opportunity to let loose — more so than celebrations held at other times of the year. This typically means alcohol is not in short supply and some guests may bring more illicit (read: dangerous) party favors.
If you’re planning on attending any holiday parties — hosted by your work, friend, or otherwise — it’s important to tread lightly. Arrange for a friend to stay sober with you and ask the host to provide non-alcoholic beverages (or bring your own). If you find that being around so much alcohol or other substances is overly tempting, it may be wise to leave the party early to avoid relapsing.
Time Your Cravings
When cravings come on, you may feel as though they’ll last forever, leaving you jonesing for a fix. However, that’s not the case. When you experience a craving, time how long the feeling lasts — it’s likely much shorter than you originally thought.
Once you learn how long your cravings last, you can find ways to distract yourself or focus on other things during that time period in order to beat the craving and avoid a relapse.
Prepare for Holiday Gatherings
You’ve likely met a number of people who dread holiday gatherings due to tensions with a relative or two. If you are feeling a bit unsettled heading into this year’s family holiday gathering, there are a few ways you can prepare and reduce your risk of relapsing.
Have Answers to Questions
For a variety of reasons, many adults prefer to go through their addiction treatments privately, without telling the entire family what is going on. While this is completely acceptable, it can leave you open to questions from family members during holiday gatherings.
Queries such as “where have you been lately?” and “why aren’t you drinking?” can be directed at you throughout the day. By preparing for these questions — both mentally and with answers — you can reduce the stress you may feel going into family functions.
Bring Your Own Drinks
If you know that there may be an abundance of wine and spirits at your family gathering, it is wise to bring your own drink of choice to sip on. Whether it’s a bottle of cider or your favorite seltzer, having your own beverage will keep help curb your cravings and avoid relapsing.
Simply put, when you’re focused on other activities and tasks, your mind won’t wander to the idea of drinking or using drugs. Ask to help out in the kitchen, play with the kids, or walk the pets — any way you can stay busy can help lower your desire to break your sobriety.
Rely on Family Members for Support
Particularly if your family is aware of your recovery journey, rely on them for support. Make them aware if you’re feeling stressed or of any other trepidations you have heading into the holiday season and allow them to lend a helping hand. It’s much better to turn to a loved one than drugs or alcohol.
Turn to Silver Ridge for Quality Addiction Treatment
At Silver Ridge, our multi-disciplinary team of medical professionals have experience treating all the above forms of substance use disorder. Our inpatient program is designed to meet the needs of midlife adults who are looking for a more personal approach to treatment than the typical group therapy route.
Complete our online form to learn more about beginning treatment at our Asheville addiction treatment center.