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How to Keep Substance Abuse from Ruining Your Holidays

substance abuseThe holiday season—from Thanksgiving to New Year’s—is a difficult time for those who struggle with substance abuse.[1] Holidays are a time when families come together to do their best to sweep their differences under the rug and celebrate, overindulging in food and drink.1 As the holidays are often a time filled with emotions as well, the risk of relapse increases for those recovering from substance abuse.1

Here are some tips to staying sober during the holidays:

  1. Have a Plan in Place: Family gatherings can highlight and intensify the underlying issues that led to substance abuse in the first place.1 The recovering addict can feel judged, alone, and lack the support needed to continue on the sober path.1 Preparation is key. Recovering addicts must be aware that the holidays are stressful—and accept it.1 They need to watch out for potential triggers and have strategies in place to help.1 Sobriety is too valuable to not have a plan in place. Most importantly, and exit strategy is needed if things become too difficult.1 Tell the host upon arrival that you will only be able to stay for a short time if it is known that the situation will be difficult.1 There is no obligation to stay if it is not the right place for a recovering addict to be.1
  2. Recovery is Priority: It is easy to get caught up in the celebration of the season.1 Using support systems to maintain sobriety is important. Strength comes in numbers, and when possible, recovering addicts should not go into a difficult situation alone.1 They should bring someone that is supportive and understanding of their situation—someone who will also not engage in substance abuse so they do not feel alone.1 Support reminds them that their commitment to recovery is important.1 Attending a 12-Step meeting before and after the gathering can also strengthen their ability to stay sober.1
  3. Continue Treatment: Recovering addicts need to stick with their treatment program during this time.1 They should continue with 12-Step programs, visit their therapist, and strengthen their support systems.1 They should not put their recovery on the back burner during the holidays.1 Everything they have worked so hard for can be ruined.1
  4. Practice Self-Care: Recovering addicts should occupy themselves with healthy activities that bring them joy and take their mind off of using.1 The holidays are a good time to volunteer for charities, which can make them happier and boost their self-esteem.1 This will also keep them focused on positive activities.1 They should continue to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, and keep up with treatment.1 We all make poor decisions when self-care is lacking.1
  5. Avoid Triggers: It is so important to avoid all situations that will make a recovering addict want to use again.1 If seeing people makes them too sad or angry, they should limit their interaction with them.1 Keep plans in place to exit the situation and control the urge to use.1

It is not easy to adjust to life without drugs and alcohol for a recovering addict—especially around the holidays.1 The stress can increase the risk of relapse, but the positive aspects of this season can also help recovery.1 Learning the balance is key.

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