The holidays are a time full of love and cheer; Breaking bread with the ones you love, exchanging gifts and feeling merry because…’tis the season!
We are told by everyone that it is the most wonderful time of the year. But what do you do when the stress begins to outweigh the enjoyment? When your addictive triggers begin firing, how do you not reach for your substance of choice to manage your holiday tension?
For many recovering addicts, the holidays can be a time of tremendous reflection, but it can also be a time when personal responsibilities and social obligations reignite their impulsive urge to relapse.
By embracing the potential stresses of the holiday season and proactively preparing to handle the pressures associated with your increased social expectations, you can establish an emotional safety net to aid in your sustained sobriety.
While the journey of recovery can be filled with a variety of road blocks and emotional stressors, the holidays pose their own unique risks with the season’s inherent traditions and social customs.
Eggnog around the fire, wine with dinner, beers with friends – the expectations to consume alcohol and other substances are endless. This increased level of substance use within most holiday social settings can feel like an endless stream of temptation to a recovering addict, increasing their level of personal stress and compulsion to relapse.
But you can enjoy your family time or outings with friends, and not succumb to the constant barrage of addictive impulses.
A primary technique for avoiding temptations associated with the holiday season is to surround yourself with supportive friends and family who fully respect your sobriety. Confiding in your sober support network and asking them to support your recovery by abstaining from all substance use around the holidays is a reasonable appeal.
While some may see this type of request as excessive or unnecessary, it is important to remember that those in your support network have supported you along your entire recovery journey – the ones who know how hard you have fought to attain sustained sobriety and how easy it can be to relapse.
Asking this of your sober support network will reinforce who truly is supporting your recovery and will continue to solidify the people in your life who deserve your time around the holidays.
If, for any reason, they cannot or will not comply with your request, then you may have to make the tough decision to spend the holidays without them. If that is the case, find others in recovery and celebrate the holidays sober, together.
Additional tips for maintaining your sobriety while coping with holiday stress include:
Understanding what impacts your sobriety and which personal triggers are most likely to induce a relapse is your responsibility. Take the time to identify those that most affect your life and take the necessary steps to avoid them. It may be necessary to avoid family or friends if being with them could be a trigger. This especially pertains to those new in their sobriety. It does not mean you can never have a holiday together, but maybe not this time. Being with others in recovery who understand the challenges of the holidays, may be a better choice.
The holidays are filled with all sorts of parties and social get-togethers. Taking each day into account and having a plan to avoid unnecessary stressors can aid in avoiding scenarios that will exacerbate your desire to use.
While attempting to stay within your sober support network and avoiding unnecessary temptations is commendable, there is always the potential for unforeseen complications and stressors. Take some time to rehearse responses if a drink is offered to you. Planning exactly how you will respond will help you ward off temptation.
If you find yourself struggling, share your feelings with a trusted friend or family member. You may need to remove yourself or take a break from the festivities.
Holiday stress is too often taken for granted or minimized. Proactively working to decrease your stress and avoid a relapse can be achieved, but it requires planning and perspective. Try these three holiday stress relief tips to help you avoid an unnecessary stress buildup during the holidays:
After waking in the morning, take the time to settle your mind and prepare for the day. Find a quiet place in your home, close your eyes and spend three to five minutes taking deep breaths and calming your thoughts. This can aid in decreasing your stress and help your day get off to a great start.
The holidays are full of comfort foods and relaxing. Taking the time to break a sweat and get your blood pumping is an amazing way to maintain a stress-free perspective. Research has shown that physical activity boosts your energy level and elevates your mood.1
While giving gifts can feel amazing, giving compliments and well-wishes to everyone around you can reinforce the positive perspective you are attempting to maintain.
From all of us at Covenant Hills, we wish you a safe, joyous and truly blessed holiday season.
Always remember how strong and worthy you are and know that your addiction holds no power over you anymore.
Should you or a loved one find yourself in a situation where your substance of choice has crept back into your life and you need help getting back on track, we’re here for you.
We work with every aspect of an individual to ensure complete care.
We will focus on healing your entire being – your mind, body and soul – and better help you prepare to avoid triggers, prevent relapse, and sustain sobriety moving forward.
1 Psychology Today. 7 Tips to Relieve Holiday Stress. Accessed October 29, 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smart-habits-highly-successful-people/200912/7-tips-relieve-holiday-stress.