The holiday season is a time of good food, togetherness, and making memories. However, it is also a notorious time to be chock full of holiday stress. It can wreak havoc on their mental health as a time of increased anxiety and interpersonal difficulty, especially during a struggle with substance abuse.
Here is everything you need to know about how to stay sober during the holidays. The best things you can do are familiarize yourself with seasonal triggers and plan how to cope with them effectively to avoid relapse. Read on to identify triggers and make a plan.
From endless parties to family members and high-stress holiday events, these times can be a recipe for disaster during a struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Triggers vary by person, but some of the most common triggers include:
- High-stress atmospheres
- Seeing people linked to the addiction
- Withdrawing from drugs and alcohol
- Experiencing intense emotions
- Pressure of a new job or returning to a job
- Being HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired)
- Feeling isolated from loved ones
After becoming sober, things can feel quite difficult and raw. Adding the holidays to the mix often does not help. Identify your triggers in order to prevent a situation where it can be too overwhelming for you.
First, think about an upcoming social event. How do you feel about going, and will there be alcohol and drugs present? Now, what can happen at this event that can trigger you to want to engage your addiction?
This trigger can be anything from seeing someone from the past, smelling a certain type of alcohol, or even social anxiety. Triggers come in all shapes and sizes, so pay attention to your needs, thoughts, and feelings to identify your own. This will help you cope with and avoid them.
It is wise to develop several coping methods if you feel triggered by a person, place, or thing. These coping strategies will keep you on the right track and out of harm’s way. Establish a plan of action whether it be to leave early, remove yourself from a situation, or contact your support network for extra assistance.
You can follow these tips to stay the course during the holidays:
This time of year is filled to the brim with festive celebrations and get-togethers. If you know of holiday parties and events on your calendar, the first step is to plan ahead with how you will interact at and endure the event.
Along with the festivities are many opportunities to fall off the wagon. Your best bet is to plan how your time will be spent instead of opening yourself to negative situations.
Plan to drive yourself to and from the event. This can help you stay accountable. You also have the chance to remove yourself should you feel triggered or uncomfortable. Easy access to your vehicle can give you peace of mind.
Keep Support on Standby
Contact your support system from addiction treatment to ensure you have the proper backup should you feel triggered and the urge to use again. Relapses can happen when you feel isolated or alone. For those big relapse triggers, keep your support system on stand-by.
Your support group can offer extra help during the transition after your treatment program. The holidays can already be hard, so take the support when you can get from other people in recovery or those from your recovery center.
Another great idea is to start a group text message so they are available to you at any moment. This rids the feeling of being alone and offers much-needed solace when you have the backup of others with substance use disorders as well. They may have their own tips for staying sober.
Stay with Sober Friends
Stick with positive influences. Making new friends is wonderful; however, if there is a group of people with whom you do not get along, it is best to stay away, especially if they are someone who you used to drink or do drugs with.
This can include family as well as friends. If you and a person do not see eye-to-eye, it is best to remove yourself and focus on enjoying yourself instead. Certain people may not support your recovery and offer you a drink or drugs. Stick with sober friends, and you’ll have a much better time.
The most important element to remember is that you come first. Your sobriety, healing, and recovery are of the utmost importance.
While at an event, make sure to eat, drink water and be merry. There is nothing saying you cannot enjoy a sober holiday. In fact, you may find that you enjoy it more! Your self-care comes first, so prioritize your needs and feelings.
Say “No Thanks”
Practice saying “No, thank you.” You may feel awkward or that you will be judged for refusing a drink or an offering, but you do it for all your hard work.
You may be surprised when people do not respond with anger or annoyance. Many people do not care and will move on with their evening. Do what is best for you and do not worry about stigma from others.
Adjust Your Attitude
It is easy to become a scrooge during the holidays. People asking questions and prodding into your personal life can be overwhelming. Instead of falling victim to a poor attitude, adjust your perspective!
Lower your expectations and keep yourself open and accepting of what is to come. Staying positive helps stay on the right path.
Volunteering can give a sense of purpose in your life. It is about serving others beyond just yourself. As you live a sober lifestyle now, volunteering can keep things in perspective and help combat depression.
Giving your time increases self-confidence and reduces overall stress levels. These are great ways to combat the chances of a relapse, and people will thank you. Making a difference in others’ lives is positively correlated to making a difference in your own.
If you feel the urge to use, it is time to attend a meeting. If you are traveling, you can go to meetings in whatever location you are. The beauty of recovery is that it is not limited to geography. Digital options are available as well.
You have support wherever you are. All you have to do is reach out and ask. Engage with others who are experiencing similar situations during the holiday season. You’ll learn how to cope and stay on track.
What Happens If You Relapse?
In the event of a relapse, step one is to forgive. Many people relapse after becoming sober, but this does not mean that they failed. They can continue with their recovery and consider it as just a small part of the overall healing journey.