The holidays may seem like a time of cheer and family gatherings full of laughter but it’s not a jolly old time for everyone, especially for people in the process of recovery from an alcohol or drug addiction. For recovering individuals, the holidays can be very stressful as it presents a new set of issues and worries, the most important being the fear of relapse. This is a valid concern and if a plan of action with a strong support system is not in place, recovering individuals can find themselves at loss and vulnerable to drug or alcohol seeking behaviors.
When feeling stressed and vulnerable, it’s common for most recovering individuals to fall back on an outlet that brings relief. For some, it could be a healthy defense mechanism like jogging or dancing but others might resort to less effective ways to release the emotional pressure, short term methods that will not be helpful in the long run, such as drugs and alcohol, especially if this is something the recovering individual resorted to in the past. It’s important to be mindful of the potential dangers when going down this road and coming up with a plan to fall back on could be the answer to a safe and sober holiday.
The first and most important step is to become aware of the potential problems one might face during the holiday seasons. Denial will only prolong suffering and could lead to more harmful circumstances. For example, if the recovering individual has not yet confronted family members, the idea of coming face to face with them now could be rather painful. There is quite a bit of research out there that shows how stress can cause dormant behaviors to surface and this should be a warning sign to those recovering from addiction. But there are also people who don’t have friends or family in their corner and the feelings of despair and isolation can also lead to relapse. It’s important to truly consider our circumstances in life and assess what are needs, and how they are being met at the moment.
Another important factor to take into consideration is the reality that when someone is recovering from addiction, there are a variety of events and circumstances that can be a potential trigger. These triggers might not always be recognizable and they often take the recovering individual by surprise. But there are ways to prepare. Understanding the possibility of been triggered and facing the feelings that might develop from an event or circumstance can help prevent a relapse. For example, if a friend or family member is an avid drug user it is not a good idea to spend time with that particular person. Also, attending non sober parties at this time of the year can tempt the recovering individual to make a decision that he or she will later regret. When in recovery, especially early recovery individuals need not to feel guilty about refusing to take part in activities that will make them uncomfortable. For them, staying clean and sober is priority number one. If you have a family member in recovery be understanding and empathetic. You can also learn how you can provide support to him or her. If you can’t be supportive for whatever reason, just be kind, they do not need disapproval. If you are a recovering individual who have gone through rehab, follow your relapse prevention steps carefully and make sure you plan to have the appropriate companion that will support the sober life you have achieved. Always remember. ONE DAY AT A TIME.
We, at Florida Center for Recovery, know that the Holiday Season can be very trying, but your physical and emotional health comes first, even during the holidays. Whether you’re recovering from an addiction or just starting your journey, there is help out there for you. If you’re still struggling, connect with a counselor or a sponsor and they will be able to assist you in finding the best ways to cope during the holidays. Avoid shame, guilt, boredom and feeling overwhelmed as best as you can, as they are the biggest culprits in relapse. And remember that no matter how you wish to celebrate this holiday season, you come first. Your overall health is the key to your success and it’s ok to be selfish during this time of the year because you are healing and trying to find the best version of ‘you’ and that is the best gift you will ever receive.
Dr. Balta is the Medical Director at FCR for more than 10 years. Dr. Balta is Board Certified in Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, Certified Psychoanalyst. As well, as having Psychiatric Training at The Albert Einstein School of Medicine Psychiatric Residency Program In New York City and Psychoanalytic Training at The William Alanson White Institute in New York City. While working in New York City, gained funding Grants for the treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders from SAMHSA , HRSA and the City of New York.