This time of year can be especially difficult for recovering alcoholics and addicts who may become triggered by the overwhelming emotions brought on by the season. Between anxiety-provoking family dynamics, challenging in-laws, and pressure to attend social gatherings, the holidays can be stressful.
Studies show that depression, drunk-driving accidents, suicide, and even domestic violence increase from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Many of these instances are linked to alcohol and drug abuse – from individuals who are using substances to cope with holiday stress.
Fortunately for recovering alcoholics and addicts, there are several ‘tools’ to survive the season in a healthy, recovery-friendly way. Here are some helpful tips on avoiding temptations at holiday parties, staying on track during holiday travels, and enjoying all that the season has to offer.
Attending Holiday Parties
- Have an escape plan – Arrive to a holiday event in your own vehicle, which will allow you to leave immediately if you’re feeling uncomfortable.
- Beware of food/drinks that may contain alcohol – Even a trace of alcohol can trigger cravings. Watch out for holiday favorites such as eggnog and rum cake.
- Manage your own drinks – Bring your own beverage and make sure to fill your own cup, so there is no pressure to accept a drink that someone innocently offers you.
- Choose your events wisely – If negative influences are going to be in attendance or the party is held in an environment that might trigger unpleasant memories, it’s best to avoid the event altogether.
- Have a response ready – Even if you decline an alcoholic beverage, there’s a chance someone will be persistent. You can simply state that you are committed to a healthier lifestyle.
Traveling During the Holidays
- Attend sobriety meetings and support groups – There are meetings and groups in many parts of the world, making it easier to stay the course and connect with others in recovery.
- Have a sober friend “on call” – Make sure you have someone with whom you can communicate who understands your struggles and can talk you through a tempting situation.
- Take care of yourself – Make sure you get plenty of rest, appropriate exercise, and proper nutrition.
- Plan healthy activities – Take the reins and plan an activity where you will feel empowered—one that is not centered on drinking.
- Be honest – It’s OK to let family and friends know you need a timeout. Use the quality time spent with loved ones during the holidays to tell them you are struggling, and talk with them about how they can best support you.
It’s important to reinforce your sobriety goals regularly. Acknowledge your triggers and refresh your recovery toolbox. Remind yourself about how good it feels to wake up clean and sober, and how far you have come.