Even though the consequences of holiday excess and the stress that leads up to them are more significant than we like to admit, these are still overwhelmingly special, positive times to spend with those we love. For people who are recovering from addiction, though, there are additional challenges and burdens to tackle that make the holidays much more difficult than for other people. While people in recovery should still look forward to the holidays, they also need to be cognizant of the stress and challenges that come with this special time of year.
Holiday Challenges for People in Recovery
The holidays are a frequent point of stress and relapse for someone in recovery. While running all over town searching for gifts and planning a great celebration has a certain thrill to it when all’s well with life, a large part of recovery is putting the pieces of your life back together. This is a slow, steady, painstaking process that requires day-by-day commitment and consistency, and sudden changes pose a profound test to someone’s recovery.
New Responsibilities and Obligations
Big disruptions can feel much more difficult to deal with in that circumstances, not to mention that breaking from their carefully rebuilt routines means doing without a source of comfort and structure amidst all of this as well. As the final hurdle, the actual celebrations almost always have excessive amounts of alcohol and a great deal of pressure to drink.
The overindulgence culture of the holidays frequently becomes problematic for those in recovery. People often don’t appreciate the seriousness of addiction and sobriety, and your sister in law who’s taking a break from her diet to eat four slices of pumpkin pie likely sees no difference in encouraging you to have a few beers. However, eating a bit too many sweets now and then is nothing like relapsing into alcoholism, and it’s surprising how difficult it can be to make people understand this.
However, people making light of addiction is often the least of a person’s problems. They might find being around family to trigger memories and feelings of suffering from addiction and hurting or disappointing loved ones in the process. Alternatively, some family members might refuse to be understanding and believe that you’re bound to relapse anyway. Given that alcoholism is partially genetic, it’s even possible that you might have a heavy drinker at the party trying to push you into following their lead.
More than ever before, many people find themselves alone for the holidays. Spending Christmas alone can be particularly painful for someone in recovery, and it can be harder to adhere to the healthy coping mechanisms you’ve learned. When you’re simply alone with your thoughts while seemingly everyone else is surrounded by friends and family, the temptation to abuse drugs and alcohol can be much harder to resist.
How to Set Yourself or a Recovering Loved One Up For Success
While the holidays are hard for people in recovery, they can be a little easier with the right preparation. If someone you care about is trying to stay sober, there are simple ways you can make a huge difference for them as well.
Tips for Those in Recovery
- Have a plan for how long you’ll stay at the festivities, when you’ll leave, and prepare a good reason to leave at your desired time.
- Use positive framing; instead of viewing yourself as abstaining from alcohol through willpower, decide to replace alcohol with other, sobriety-friendly forms of indulgence such as an extra slice of cake. You might even consume fewer calories in the process, due to the high calorie counts of alcohol.
- Consider visiting a support group around the holidays, or even on the holidays if you’re going to find yourself alone and find that hard to bear.
How to Help
- Check in on the people you care about if they’re alone for the holidays, or consider inviting them to spend the festivities with you and your family if possible.
- Understand and respect the boundaries of your recovering loved one, encourage them to stay sober.
- Advocate for the person and their boundaries if other family members are inconsiderate or hurtful.
Whether you’re worried about staying sober this holiday season or have a loved one you want to support, you can reach out to America’s Rehab Campuses for help.