The holidays can be a stressful time of year for everyone, but especially for people with a history of substance abuse. Learning tips and strategies to cope with holiday stress can better prepare you to support yourself or a loved one recovering from the disease of addiction.
Many people look forward to the holiday season. During most years, the winter holidays are a time to reconnect with family members, friends, and other loved ones. But the holidays aren’t a joyful time for everyone.
For some, the holidays can be overwhelming, especially if you have strained relationships with family, are in recovery from addiction, or associate the holiday season with pain or grief.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted how many people are celebrating the holiday. If you’re planning to host or attend holiday gatherings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidelines for how to safely celebrate during the winter holidays.
If you have special holiday plans, or find the holidays to be a stressful time, it can be helpful to have tips on how to make it through holiday-related stress. Whether that relates to family gatherings, grief, loneliness, or other holiday stressors.
If you’re looking for tips on how to support yourself or a loved one in addiction recovery over the holidays, here are five tips from Spring Hill Recovery Center:
1. Plan Ahead
Creating a relapse prevention plan is the best way to prepare for a sober holiday. Keep a calendar and make a to-do list to keep yourself busy. Having too much free time, especially if you’re isolated from others, can be difficult for people in early sobriety.
If you’re planning to attend holiday gatherings, create an escape plan in case you become overwhelmed. Removing yourself from a triggering situation can be an act of self-care.
Be patient with yourself. If you have the option, let a trusted friend or family member know you may need to step out or leave if things become too much. Yes, this applies to Zoom calls as well.
Check in with yourself regularly. Create a list of coping strategies in case you find yourself overly stressed, such as calling a sober friend, using grounding techniques, or distracting yourself with a comforting activity.
2. Be Aware Of Potential Triggers
Everyone’s triggers are different. Some have certain people in their lives who can be triggering. Maybe you have a difficult time talking about certain topics or feel uneasy around alcoholic drinks.
One way to prepare for this is to first make a list of your relapse triggers. Being aware of potential triggers, and acknowledging that they may show up over the holidays, gives you an opportunity to plan ahead.
Give yourself permission to struggle and to conquer your struggles in a way that feels comfortable and empowering for you.
3. Evaluate Situations To Determine Your Comfort Level
Holding onto your drug addiction recovery in some situations can be difficult, especially if you’re newly sober and find holiday gatherings overwhelming.
You’re allowed to set boundaries for yourself. This might mean passing on holiday parties or events that you know may pose a risk to your recovery.
Before attending a holiday event, try to gauge the risk level. Is this situation low-risk, moderate-risk, or high-risk? Where is this event taking place? Will the nature of the event put me in a difficult position with my sobriety?
4. Reach Out To Your Support System
You’re not alone. If you’re struggling to curb urges to drink or use drugs, talk to someone about it. Bottling things up inside only makes things worse. You might consider talking to a trusted friend, family member, recovery mentor/sponsor, or addiction treatment professional.
If you don’t have an available support system, consider:
- finding a virtual or in-person support group
- reaching out to your counselor (if they’ve confirmed their willingness to receive out-of-office contact)
- calling the SAMHSA national hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for referrals to local treatment centers, support groups, and community-based recovery resources
5. Take Care Of Yourself
Taking the time to eat full meals, get enough sleep, and drink enough water can do a lot for your physical and mental health. This can give you strength and a clear head to help you face any challenges head-on.
And if you have relapsed, it’s okay to admit that to yourself. But it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Seeking out treatment after relapsing is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Seeking Help For An Addiction After A Holiday Relapse
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug use during the holidays, you’re not alone. At Spring Hill, we offer residential and intensive outpatient treatment that can provide structure and support during your holiday season.
Call us today for more about how Spring Hill can help support you or a loved one during the holidays.