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Substance Abuse and Recovery During the Holidays

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Recovering from substance abuse is difficult regardless of the time of year. However, the holidays present a special challenge for even the long-term recovering addict.

The stress of preparing for parties, family gatherings, gift purchasing and things of that nature can overwhelm even the most well-balanced of us all. It can feel like you’re under a microscope and the entire world is watching and judging your every move and your substance abuse is on everybody’s mind. It’s important that the recovering addict and their family recognize and understand the risks that can happen during the holiday season.

For starters, the holidays are emotional for everyone. The difference is of course that the repercussions for an addict are far more considerable. The first key to not falling victim to relapse during the holidays is awareness, education and preparation. It is human nature to enlist the help of coping mechanisms during times of strife, and resisting that temptation is hard. Here is some helpful information for you and your loved ones to prepare yourselves for a substance abuse-free holiday season.

Struggles during the holidays involving an active or recovering addict usually stem from one of two places. If the addict is active, there will likely be quite a lot of energy and subsequent stress due to hiding their substance abuse habit from their friends and family. Family gatherings can also highlight and intensify many of the underlying issues that prompted substance abuse in the first place.

The other likely scenario involves the former addict and the average family’s aversion to acknowledging their recovery. Many people are uncomfortable discussing substance abuse and what can happen to someone who is addicted, and it’s much easier to just pretend like nothing’s happened at all. This can be troubling to the recovering addict who in this scenario is not getting the support they need during these trying times.

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Tips for Substance Abuse and Recovery During the Holidays

As stated earlier, preparation is key. Accept and acknowledge that the holidays can be stressful and full of potential relapse triggers so having a strategy is essential. Do not try to wing it. Your sobriety is far too valuable. For example, if your family is prone to prying and asking questions that make you uncomfortable, set boundaries on what you find to be acceptable conversation topics. If your substance abuse is one of them, great. If not, make no secret about it as you don’t have to discuss anything that makes you uneasy.

In addition to conversation preparation, when you’re faced with situations like holiday parties where substance abuse is abound, always have an exit strategy before you leave the house. Tell the hosts upon your arrival that you will only be able to stay for a short time. Take the pressure off of yourself and your need to please everyone else.

Have a non-alcoholic beverage in your hand at all times so no one tries to force one on you. Do your best to surround yourself with sober support during the holidays as well, as there is strength in numbers and you won’t feel like the only person in attendance not engaging in substance abuse. Practice role-playing with your sober support before you enter a high-risk situation to prepare yourself for uncomfortable interactions with loved ones and strangers you may face.

Destination Hope is a full-service drug, alcohol and dual diagnosis treatment center in South Florida. We understand how difficult the holiday season can be on the recovering addict. If there’s anything we can do to make this winter a little less challenging for you, please don’t hesitate to call us and we’ll start working on a way to help.

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