Staying sober during the Christmas season can be a challenge. While the Christmas season is an exciting time of year, it can also be an overwhelming and emotional time. For those in an addiction recovery program, this is especially true. Whether you are new to sobriety, or have been in a program for a few years, this season has a history of testing those who are trying to maintain lasting sobriety. Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations often include more than the company of friends and family, they include drugs and alcohol. Celebrations fueled by alcohol can be a dangerous environment for those in an addiction treatment program. The combination of your closest friends and family using alcohol, mixed with heightened emotions may trigger you to relapse.
Staying sober during the Christmas season can challenge anyone in recovery, especially those in the early stages. If you are new to recovery, chances are you are trying to rebuild your life from the harm alcohol or drugs have caused. When you return home for the holidays after your first time in rehab, you may feel confronted by inquisitive family members and old friends. Returning home also means you may encounter people that enabled your addiction, such as friends you used to buy drugs from, old bars you used to frequent, and other local triggers.
Sometimes a life of addiction takes everything away from you. You may not have a home, family, or any real friends to call your own. The burden of reflecting on your past transgressions while you were using is commonplace during the holiday season. While many are looking forward, you are looking back at a life that could've been more fulfilling if you hadn't gone down the wrong path. These types of thoughts lead you to depression, and depression can bring you right back to the very thing that got you there to begin with - drugs and alcohol.
No matter your story or situation, you must hold on to your desire to stay clean. You must look deep inside yourself and find the determination to resist temptations offered by the holiday season.
If you have a history of mental health issues or a substance abuse disorder, being in a stressful situation where alcohol or drugs are being consumed is not recommended during the holidays. People managing addiction are learning how to live life without drugs and alcohol. Staying sober through any holiday season is much easier said than done.
Addiction is a neurological disorder that affects the reward system of the brain. Most alcoholics like to think that one day they will be able to drink again, without suffering the negative consequences like in the past. Battling these self-destructive thought and behavioral patterns requires effort each day. If you know you have a problem with alcohol, and occasionally fantasize about drinking again, avoid the temptations that holiday gathering offer. Don't go to the party in the first place. If you know a loved-one in recovery that is more stressed out than usual during the holidays, take extra care and caution and help them avoid temptation.
Triggers are defined in mental health as an external event or circumstance that produces uncomfortable emotions such as anxiety, fear, depression, or anger.
Below we look at some potential triggers people in recovery face during the holidays. We have also included some helpful tips to make this holiday season more enjoyable and memorable for anyone in recovery.
If you are spending this holiday season with someone who is affected by behavioral illnesses or disorders; you can offer your support and help to promote comfort for them. Before the beginning of the celebrations, offering a listening ear which can do a lot in curbing their anxious feelings. Talk openly about emotions and possible triggers and try to see things from their point of view.
Offer rides to meetings and help create fun new ways to celebrate the holidays that don’t involve drinking. Play some board games, brew a pot of coffee and wear some ugly sweaters. Starting new healthy traditions is not only a positive way of supporting someone in recovery but it also grows the bond between you and your loved one.
In addition, it is important to allow your recovering loved one to do the things that help them stay sober. These things could include church, meetings, calling their sponsor, meditating, reading, working out, eating healthy and getting enough rest. If they are uncomfortable in a situation, they should not have to stay- the most important thing is their health and well-being.
Hopefully the tips above will help you, or a loved one, stay sober this holiday and many more holidays to come. Recovery is a life-long process that takes a lot of adjustment, changes, and patience. If you are new to recovery and this is your first sober Christmas, take advantage of our tips, call your sponsor, go to a meeting, or simply enjoy some time to yourself. Anything that will get you away from the temptations of the holiday will help reduce your stress and prevent a relapse. We hope you have a very merry Christmas, and a healthy New Year.
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