“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but for those in recovery, cravings for more than hot cocoa can come in full force. While some worry about their waistlines from all the holiday food, you may be worried you’ll relapse. There are many reasons for this, from the added stress, extremely busy schedules personally and professionally and having to spend time away from your sober network. It can also be a challenge to forego the spiked eggnog when you see the rest of your family and friends having a glass —or even a few.
The holidays can be an emotional time, and it’s easy to see why you might want to seek solace in the drug you once abused if the stress gets to be too much. If you learn your relapse triggers, you’ll be forearmed with strategies to resist temptation so you can protect the greatest gift you’ve ever given yourself and your loved ones: your hard-earned sobriety. Preparation is key, take this time to study up on techniques for avoiding relapse and staying sober throughout the holidays and beyond.
5 Tips for Maintaining Sobriety
Tis the season for cocktails, holiday parties, and good times (often fueled by alcohol). With this added stress, it’s easy to see why it’s possible to relapse during the holidays, especially if you are unprepared or in very early recovery. The ramped-up family time can also be an emotional time for many.
- Taking care of yourself during the holiday means warding off triggers. The most common triggers for relapse correspond to the letters in the acronym “HALT”:
- Hungry: Low blood sugar from hunger can make you anxious and irritable, and that can lead to impulsive decisions where you’ll be more tempted to use substances.
- Alone: One of the hallmarks of addiction is isolation. Keep yourself busy with friends and family. Remember that you don’t need alcohol or drugs to make the season bright, but you do need support. Lean on your support network.
- Lonely: If you don’t have anyone to celebrate with during the holidays, don’t despair. Many find themselves in this situation. If you’re feeling the holiday blues, try to distract yourself and strike up a conversation with someone new, volunteer or pick up a new hobby.
- Tired: You may feel the need for a “pick me up” and turn to your former substance of choice to do so. Resist this by getting adequate rest and exercising during the day to sleep better at night.
- Have a good attitude. Manage stress and make sure you stay fully conscious of defense mechanisms such as rationalization and denial, both which can spur on a relapse. Talk to your sponsor or a professional counselor about your emotions and expectations regarding the holidays. Remember, too, that many others are stressed during the holidays, even those who aren’t in recovery.
- Be wary of known risks. If you are going to a family holiday party and you know your great aunt is going to grill you about your sobriety, avoid her. If your uncle wants to make you a stiff drink, say “no, thanks” or “I don’t drink anymore.” If you know the office holiday party is going to be all about drinking, make a brief appearance and go home. It’s unrealistic to face these temptations and think you’ll be able to “soldier through” them. Don’t put yourself in the positions of having to do so, as Step One of 12-step programs is “We don’t have the power over drugs.”
- Be mindful of what you’re drinking. When you’re in a social gathering, it’s helpful to always have a beverage in hand, so you won’t have to decline drinks from other partygoers. Make sure you watch to see how your beverage is made and ask if it’s nonalcoholic. If you accidentally take a sip of what you thought was sparkling apple cider but turned out to be champagne, don’t despair. One accidental sip of alcohol doesn’t equate to a relapse. It can, however, if you keep your mistake a secret and rationalize that you were able to handle alcohol, after all. Resist this.
- Consider going to rehab during the holidays. Are the holidays all too much for you to cope with right now? You’re not alone. Some may think it’s an inappropriate time to go to treatment, when in fact, it could be the perfect opportunity. It’s a known fact that substance abuse increases during the holidays, and addiction treatment initiated during this time could be the best gift you give to yourself, not to mention your family, friends, and even your colleagues.
Ready to learn more about addiction treatment? Contact us at Turning Point by dialing (973) 380-0905 or reach out online for a quick reply.