The holidays can be a stressful time of year for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for those in recovery. During a time that is highly focused on gift-giving, family gatherings, and travel, finding ways to manage the stress can be overwhelming. This is especially true for those who spend the holidays alone. Being inundated with social media posts and marketing aimed at highlighting the joys of the holidays can be a trigger for relapse but preparing for it can help minimize the risk and allow you to get through the season successfully.
Why are the holidays difficult for those with addiction?
The holiday season can be a big source of stress even for those in sobriety. For many, themes of money and family can be a source of pain because addiction often negatively impacts these aspects of life. Even after having the opportunity to address these areas through treatment, past experiences can still surface that may trigger problematic behaviors further increasing the risk for relapse.
For those who do not have a strong or stable relationship with family members or friends, the holidays can intensify feelings of isolation or loneliness. Sadness, shame, or boredom can put a person at risk for relapse. Holidays are often associated with memories, both positive and negative, and both can tempt a person to seek escape through substance abuse. They can both be a painful reminder of the changes caused by addiction in relationships and may strengthen the impact of negative thoughts or feelings that drive substance abuse. Finding a way to manage these emotions when alone can be especially difficult making the holidays a great source of stress in recovery.
Tips for Managing Sobriety During the Holidays
Regardless of the amount of time you have successfully maintained sobriety, the holidays can introduce unique stressors and experiences that a person may not have to face on a regular basis. No matter where you are in your recovery, preparation for any potential pitfalls is vital to successfully navigate this time of year. Even if you are alone for the holidays, there are ways you can stay connected and protect your sobriety during this season.
- Find local meetings: There are numerous support groups and meetings that may be nearby you. Find a list of local meetings and plan on attending as many as needed to help you stay on track. While many support groups make a point to be open during the holidays, not all of them will be, making it important to connect with these groups and find ones that will still be open and available should you need it.
- Know your triggers: If you are actively managing your sobriety, you may already have an idea of what your triggers are. Revisiting what your triggers are and how to properly manage them can help you ensure they do not become overwhelming. Making a point to address your physical and mental needs during this time of year can help you avoid triggering situations that can threaten your sobriety.
- Manage your stress: Stress can be a powerful trigger for relapse. Substance abuse is often used as a method of coping with difficult situations or emotions. Rather than letting the stress of the holidays overpower you, make sure you create time and space to decompress. Establishing healthy outlets and routines can help keep stress at bay and allow you to manage it in a productive way.
- Engage with your support system: Having a sponsor, staying close with the sober community, and connecting with family or friends that support your sobriety can help reduce feelings of isolation. Even if you are spending the holidays alone, connecting through something as simple as a phone call can help you combat feelings of loneliness. Your support system can help you focus on the positives, such as your achievements and milestones in recovery, and take time to celebrate your successes.
- Holiday activities: There are ways you can celebrate the holidays and brighten your day on your own. Baking, decorating a Christmas tree, or exploring the holiday lights allows you to distract yourself and enjoy the little things. You can find new holiday traditions through these activities and reduce negative feelings that may threaten your sobriety.
- Celebrate your accomplishments: The holidays can be a great time of year to reflect on your journey and plan for the future. With the new year’s imminent approach, it is a great opportunity to develop new goals and appreciate how far you have come. It can be easy to fall into negative thought patterns, but actively refocusing your mindset to emphasize the positives can help you keep your sobriety top-of-mind.
- Stay active: Being alone during the holidays can make it incredibly tempting to isolate yourself further to avoid being reminded of it. Rather than giving in to this, making an effort to stay active can help you avoid this pitfall. Getting outdoors, going to the movies, or joining a sober gathering can help you stay connected and reduce feelings of loneliness. Avoiding boredom or situations that heighten negative feelings can help you navigate difficult situations without tempting relapse.
The holidays can be trying, but they can also be an opportunity to create new traditions. Practicing the tools needed to manage your sobriety before they are needed can help you strengthen your ability to manage triggers should they arise. Making it through this time of year can improve your confidence in yourself and emphasize your ability to manage difficult experiences and emotions. Treat the holidays like any other day in recovery, celebrate your accomplishments, and stay active in your sobriety to make this time of year more manageable.
If you or someone you love is struggling in active addiction, call Nexus today at 866-200-2990 so we can help.