You’ve heard of black Friday, but what about blackout Wednesday? That’s right, the holidays are often the most inebriated times of the year for many Texans. Overindulgence is common and the holiday season presents a unique challenge for people who are recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction. As people get into the holiday spirit, they often pay little attention to how much alcohol they are consuming. Many former drug addicts are faced with temptation as they go home for the holidays. It is a time of year where you may run into an old friend whom you used to use with. Many people make the excuse that: “I’ll just use this one time, it’s a special occasion!”
With more parties occurring between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, it is no wonder overindulgence is commonplace.
While the holiday season can be fun and festive, it can also be the source of a lot of stress for many people. The stress can be attributed to financial responsibilities conflicting with the generosity of the season or the stress of dealing with family members and friends you may not have the best relationships with in the past. Many people also experience SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, which is due to the lack of sunlight and warmth with the shorter days. This has physical and psychological implications for a multitude of reasons in different types of people.
As a recovering addict, it is a difficult time of year to watch family and friends indulge in alcoholic beverages and in some cases prescription and illicit drugs. If you are in recovery, there may be a sense of guilt or embarrassment associated with your past substance abuse. You may feel that your loved ones will think of you differently, and judge you for your personal struggles. This may be the source of a lot of stress for a person in recovery around the holiday season.
As your past has likely shown you, using drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with all these sources of stress may be a familiar, easy way out. As you feel the temptation and see others indulge, (or overindulge) just know that you are your own source of strength. Perhaps you’ve just made it through a period of time in sobriety. Your own resistance to temptation will be tested and you have the power to remove yourself from difficult situations or simply say no to a friend or family member who presents you with an opportunity to use again.
There are simple, effective ways to deal with these temptations and prevent a potential relapse.
You can avoid the relapse mentality with a set of specific techniques and ideas that we hope will keep you safe and sober this holiday season.
- Avoid the “just have one” mentality. This is a slippery slope that many in recovery know they can’t handle the just have one drink, one line, or one hit without reverting to a full blown substance abuse.
- Limit the likelihood of experiencing depression or loneliness. Sometimes when surrounded by your close friends and family can make you feel the most alone. Especially for someone struggling with substance abuse. In a lot of cases the toxic relationships with family members was one of the causes of your addiction. Many people simply do not have happy memories with their families. This can be a great source of pain that is brought up around holiday time as you make plans to see them again. Perhaps your family dynamic is what led you to abuse drugs or alcohol in the first place. If this is the case you should limit your exposure to anyone who was a negative influence in your life. Tell them upon arrival that you will not be able to stay long. This way if a problem arises, you can make your exit without feeling an obligation to stay to make someone else happy.
- If you happened to have a problem with alcohol specifically, you should bring your own beverages to any party or gathering. Having a drink in your hand at all times is an easy coping mechanism to deal with the temptation to indulge in alcohol again. You shouldn’t leave it up to the host to cater to your special needs. Bring your own beverages. Maybe it could be a fancy coffee drink, or your favorite type of juice. Whatever you decide, make sure you have one in your hand at all times. This way people won’t ask to get you a drink and you wouldn’t be tempted in those passing moments.
- Don’t go it alone. Take a friend or family member with you who understands your struggle and can help enforce your limitations. Make a plan early and discuss the plan with them. If a strong temptation arises have a signal that it is time to leave.
- Offer to be the designated driver. If you think you can handle people using substances around you, this is a good way to help not only your friends, but also your community as a whole. There is a major increase in traffic accidents and DUI’s during the busy holiday season. If you can handle being around those who are drinking or possibly using drugs, offer them a safe ride. This will also give you a greater sense of purpose that may be just enough to help you resist temptations to indulge yourself.
- Sweet treats are a common pacifier to help calm cravings. Sugar triggers the chemical reward system in the brain and can help you navigate temptations during family functions and parties. Exercise is another way to boost endorphins and help you minimize cravings.
The holidays should not be an excuse to relapse or let go of all your hard work in recovery. If you know someone who is struggling with addiction in Texas, look up More Than Rehab or a treatment center in your area to find out what programs are available to help you or your loved one. The holiday season is one of the most common times that relapses occur. Let’s help each other make it through this season, sober.