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Addiction Recovery and Preparing for the Holiday Season

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Addiction Recovery and Preparing for the Holiday Season

Preparing for the holidays can be a challenging time for people in addiction recovery. As the holiday festivities ramp up with lights, liquor and laughter, so does the risk of a relapse.  Everyone, it seems, is in a celebratory mood.  From the bell-ringing Santas at the mall to the buzz about whether to get rum or beer for the office party, what should be a fun filled time may feel more like a gathering storm to a recovering addict. Making it through the holiday season without falling off the wagon or taking that one hit can prove to be the test for relapse prevention techniques and support systems. Learn more about addiction recovery and preparing for the holiday season, and how you can stay on the right path. 

Holiday Relapse Dangers

The risk of relapse increases during the holidays because of a number of reasons such as:

  1. More planned celebratory events where drinks and drugs are likely to be available
  2. Increased stress about money
  3. Seasonal changes can trigger feelings of depression
  4. Family gatherings can be painful reminders of the breakup of marriages and relationships.
  5. Traditional gathering of friends who are still involved in substance abuse can be difficult to avoid.
  6. High expectations and disappointments that often occur during the holidays.

Because of these increased risk factors, it is important to be even more vigilant about maintaining sobriety during the upcoming holiday season. Additionally, revisiting old haunts are more likely during this time of year and this is a recognized substance abuse relapse trigger.  Staying away from events in order to avoid temptations could also lead to drinking or using drugs alone. Most people participating in drinking at holiday festivities tend to be looser about their behavior and can coerce a recovering addict who may be teetering on the edge of a relapse, to have a drink with them. Any form of relapse can be dangerous after a period of abstinence when tolerance levels have been lowered.  People resuming drug or alcohol use can experience inebriation or overdose on a smaller does than they formerly would.  Any form of binging on drugs and alcohol can therefore be deadly.  

Holiday Relapse Prevention Tipsholiday-relapse-prevention-tips

  1. Take some time to review relapse prevention techniques or learn about the dangers of a relapse.  Safe drinking levels for the average recreational drinker may not be the same for people in recovery.
  2. Plan Ahead.  Being proactive about holiday plans that include events and entertainment that will not threaten your sobriety can open up new and interesting ways to spend the holidays with people and in environments that do not favor drinking or drug use. National Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) studies show, relapse is often triggered by stress and exposure to events or places that the individual associates with alcohol.
  3. Shore up your support system. Spending more time with your support team or increasing meetings with your therapist during this time may help to keep you on track. Also, make arrangement to have emergency access to support if holiday plans get thwarted and you find yourself bombarded with triggers.    
  4. Be Selective.  Know what your priorities are and be selective about which invitations may be safe to accept and those that may threaten your sobriety.  Be prepared to decline invitations and to rebut classic naysayers.
  5. Give yourself an out.  Do not travel to events with people who are not supporting your recovery. Drive yourself or make prior arrangement for a quick exit if necessary if you do end up at an event that threatens your sobriety.   

Even with the best intentions, a relapse during the holiday season may still be on the horizon for you.  Seeking help immediately following a relapse is one way to get back on track and avoid a relapse that could cause a fatality. Avoid being alone during this vulnerable period.  Most people feel embarrassed or ashamed when they relapse. These feelings can cause people to isolate themselves which is particularly dangerous if drug use or drinking continues.    Turn your focus from the relapse to resuming sobriety.  Most people spend time beating themselves up for relapsing instead of treating as the slip in sobriety maintenance that it is.  Making getting back on track the priority takes the focus off the relapse completely and onto steps to get strong.  Use available resources or seek out new ones that you may not have tried.  Remember, recovery is an ongoing process and new innovative recovery tools are always emerging.    Don’t see a relapse as a failure, but a bump in the road on your sobriety journey.  Relapse events can be an extremely dangerous time for a recovering addict.  Recognize it as such and get back in a recovery program as soon as possible.  

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