The holidays are a joyous season for family gatherings and celebrations. However, for some people, the year-end is when it gets difficult to practice self-control and maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
Usually, many people get busy as the year ends. From gift shopping to get-togethers to travel vacations, it’s sometimes inevitable to get lost in the thick of things. While this can be a good thing for some people, it can be detrimental to those battling addiction.
If you’re in the process of recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, it’s essential to understand the link between the holidays and substance abuse. Doing so can help you end the year in sobriety.
Why Is There a Substance Abuse Increase During Holidays?
There are two main reasons why people resort to substance abuse during the holiday season. The first one is because of stress, while the second one is because of a lack of inhibition.
While most people enjoy going to celebrations with relatives and friends during the holidays, it can be overwhelming for those who have not fully recovered from drug and alcohol addiction yet. As we know, those with substance abuse disorders tend to live in isolation and withdraw from any gathering. When forced to socialize, the ambiance of having many people around can cause them to get stressed, increasing their risk of relapse.
The holiday season is also when lots of parties that involve drinking take place. With easy access to different substances, those struggling to maintain sobriety may see it as an opportunity to have “just one cup” of wine, alcohol, or other spirits. However, that is not always the case. Some lose track of what really matters and tend to overdrink, resulting in relapse.
Although there are more reasons why people resort to drugs and alcohol as the year ends, these two previously mentioned things are enough to prove the relation between the holidays and substance abuse.
Common Holiday Triggers for Relapses
Now that you already know the link between the holidays and substance abuse, it helps to know and avoid the common triggers for relapse. Here are some of them:
1. Family Gatherings
The behavior of some toxic family members can already cause stress. Additionally, the mere fact of seeing people who were a part of your unpleasant memories can lead to relapse.
It helps to set boundaries to avoid holiday stress and substance abuse. If you’re not comfortable with relatives other than the ones you live with, choose not to go to family gatherings.
2. Holiday Isolation
If being alone makes you feel sad, stressed, or depressed, then you need to avoid isolation this holiday season. The feeling of being alone can bring negative thoughts that can cause you to resort to drug and alcohol use.
There are many things you can do, such as watching movies with your family, playing games with your younger relatives, and eating meals with friends and loved ones. Make sure you always have someone with you during the holidays.
3. Treatment Disruption
Nowadays, it’s difficult to set classes, therapies, social gatherings, and counseling for addiction recovery. Not only because of the holidays but also because of the proliferation of the COVID-19 virus. This problem can be a source of relapse.
What you can do is plan ahead. You can set appointments as early as one month before your preferred schedule. This way, there will be no disruptions in your addiction treatment during the holiday season.
4. Increased Access To Alcohol
Compared to normal days, substances of abuse are more commonplace during holiday gatherings and parties. This situation gives you increased access to alcohol and drugs and is tempting.
For that reason, avoid going to get-togethers with friends and loved ones involved with drug and alcohol misuse. If you’re obligated to attend, you can bring someone to be your accountability partner.
5. Busy Schedule
While recovering from addiction, you need a daily routine to keep yourself occupied all the time. However, with many things going on during the holiday season, you might experience disruptions in your routine, which can cause stress and relapse.
To prevent such things from happening, you need to be wise in choosing the tasks to do and events to go to. Prioritize yourself first and learn to say no to major responsibilities that can overwhelm you.
Helpful Ways to Prevent Relapses this Holiday Season
Always keep in mind that you don’t need alcohol, drugs, and other substances to get through the holiday season. There are many ways to end the year sober and clean, such as:
1. Start your day with a plan.
Starting your day with a plan is the key to preventing relapses. With a goal in mind, you can stay focused and motivated to maintain abstinence. If you keep thinking about staying sober as the year ends, you should be fine for the rest of the holidays.
2. Evaluate every situation.
If you’re in early recovery, classify different situations as low-, medium-, or high-risk. For instance, going to parties at the bar this holiday season can be considered high-risk. Avoid it as much as possible and deal with low-risk situations only.
Further into recovery, you’ll find yourself being able to get through medium- and high-risk situations. When that time comes, you still have to consider having an everyday plan to help you overcome addiction.
3. Keep stress at bay.
During the holiday season, it’s inevitable to avoid stress. The good news is that you can fight it. When something’s stressing you out, take a few minutes to relax and decompress.
Meditate or exercise whenever needed. These things can help you push away negative thoughts brought about by stress. They can also satisfy your body’s craving to do something.
4. Distract yourself.
While distracting yourself is a short-term response only, it helps with different situations. For instance, occupy yourself by talking with a friend who doesn’t do drugs or alcohol during a party or gathering.
5. Bring the party with you.
Instead of alcohol and drugs, why not bring something safe to eat and drink? If you’re craving champagne, there are lots of great sparkling water available on the market now. You can even choose from a wide variety of flavors.
6. Avoid your triggers.
Another way to prevent relapse is to identify your triggers. By knowing them, you will be able to manage and avoid them this holiday season. Aside from other necessary actions, taking care of your physical and mental health is essential in warding off your triggers.
7. Rehearse actions and responses.
To avoid conversations about your addiction or some things that can trigger a relapse, you can rehearse a response. Doing so can help you in case a friend or relative asks you questions you’re not comfortable answering yet.
8. Fend off your cravings.
According to a 2012 study, the duration of drug craving varies from person to person. However, some experts say that it lasts for about 15 to 20 minutes. If you’re strong enough to fight it within that duration, then you should be fine.
If you think you can’t ward it off, you can follow the previously mentioned tips for keeping stress at bay. Those things should be enough to let your mind wander away from the thought of alcohol and drugs.
9. Eat nutritious meals.
Long-term drug and alcohol use can take its toll on your physical health. Before, after, and during the holiday season, eat healthy food to help your body recuperate and stay in top condition. If possible, eat nutritious snacks or meals every three hours.
Avoid skipping meals and eating less than normal as well. These things can cause low blood sugar and anxiety, which, in turn, can trigger a relapse. Having a meal plan can be of great help.
10. Have a reliable support system.
Make sure that you get the support you need this holiday season. If you’re comfortable opening up your thoughts and emotions to your family members, lean on them. In case that’s not an option, it helps to be a member of a support group.
Haven House Is Here to Help
With the dangerous link between the holidays and substance abuse, it’s essential to seek help. Haven House Recovery Center is here to help you stay sober this holiday season. We provide a faith-based addiction treatment plan to help men from all walks of life recover from addiction. Contact us for inquiries or visit our recovery center near Nashville, TN.