For those who struggle with addiction, the ‘most wonderful time of year’ often isn’t. Whether it’s the temptation of parties, family stress, financial stress or simply the strain of all the holiday go-go-go, it can be easy to slip. But that doesn’t mean relapse is a given. With these tips for avoiding holiday addiction relapses, this year may just be merrier than you think.
There’s no need to isolate yourself during the holidays to stay focused on your sobriety. In fact, that may make things worse if it leads to depression and loneliness. Instead, simply plan ahead so you aren’t caught off guard by situations and events.
Evaluate each scenario based on whether it’s low, medium or high-risk, then prepare by arriving or leaving early or driving yourself so you can leave when you need to. And in case you find yourself in a difficult situation, create of list of things you can do or say as an exit strategy to quickly remove yourself from a risky situation.
Stick with your Support System
It may be helpful to attend extra meetings during the holidays if you’re part of a support group. Or, it could be time to find a group for extra support this time of year. Some of the most common include 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA), Heroin Anonymous (HA) and Marijuana Anonymous (MA).
In addition, focus on being around people who support your recovery and avoiding those who don’t or who use themselves. It’s okay to say ‘no’ when your recovery is at stake. You might also consider having a trusted friend or family member accompany you to events to help you avoid temptation.
Understand Your Triggers
It’s important to know what triggers you and how to manage it. Common triggers include hunger, anger, loneliness or being tired, otherwise known as the acronym HALT.
One strategy might be to bring your own dish or a non-alcoholic drink to a party to ensure you’re able to avoid low blood sugar and irritability, as well as to take away that temptation.
Keep Stress at Bay
Stress is another big trigger especially around the holidays, so much so it deserves its own section. But you’re less likely to fall back into old habits of drug or alcohol use to combat stress when you have healthy strategies at hand. For example, exercise and meditation are great stress relievers. Make a habit of doing both regularly.
If you do have the urge to use, typically cravings only last about 20 minutes. Practice deep breathing, move to a different setting or even try talking yourself through it with a reminder of how much is at risk, that you cannot stop at just one drink and that you can choose to stay sober.
Help for Holiday Addiction Relapses
Lastly, make sure you can recognize the signs of relapse should they occur. The first stage is emotional where you may be experiencing mood swings, anxiety and feeling run down or sleeping poorly. The second is mental where you are actively thinking about using and/or reminiscing about the role drugs or alcohol had in your past holiday celebrations and wanting that feeling again.
Before the last stage, physically acting on your urge, it’s important to take action. Remember, this is not a sign of failure, rather an indication that you need to make adjustments to your recovery approach in order to stay sober.