The holiday season is a time of the year filled with joy, love, and plenty of celebrations. But for many people, the holidays can bring about unwelcome guests — depression and stress. For individuals in recovery, both guests can prove to be a danger to their sobriety. Avoiding major relapse triggers during the holiday season can go a long way in helping to maintain a person’s long-term recovery. Here are some tips for identifying potential relapse risk factors, how to avoid them, and ways to enjoy the season with less stress:
Parties: During the holiday season, there are many parties and celebrations that take place. For a person in recovery, these parties and celebrations — many of which aren’t conducive with a sober lifestyle — can trigger stress. Individuals in recovery can feel left out of the holiday season, as it can seem like everyone around them is having a good time drinking and being celebratory. Even the turning down of invitations to parties can enhance feelings of isolation.
The best thing for individuals in addiction recovery to do is to plan ahead: choose the sober parties and events where they can still have fun and socialize during the holiday season.
Individuals in recovery may want to reach out to their sponsor for recommended events, since sponsors have spent plenty of holidays sober and will know from experience which events an individual in recovery should go to. An individual in recovery can also check in with any alumni support groups they are a part of to see any parties or events the group will be hosting for the holidays.
Financial: Along with the merriment, the holiday season can carry with it added pressure to spend heavily. It is common for people to feel stressed during the holidays over gift-giving, especially how to pay for all of them.
During this time, individuals in recovery would be well-advised to avoid purchasing expensive gifts or to abide by a holiday spending budget. Keeping their financial obligations in mind, the spending budget can be created throughout the year by stashing away money on a weekly basis to meet a specific goal amount for spending on gifts.
Family Conflict: If an individual in recovery comes from a family that likes to drink alcohol at their holiday parties, this environment can prove to be a major risk for relapse. In that situation, a person should politely decline to attend, if their family can’t make adjustments to fit their sober lifestyle.
Unresolved issues with family may also come to a head during the holiday season for a person in recovery. If an individual in recovery feels that spending the holidays with their family may open up old wounds, they should politely decline attendance to any family holiday dinners under those circumstances as well, until they feel they are ready to address issues in a healthy manner.
Attending a family dinner with unresolved issues on the table can be risky and result in conflict. Experiencing a barrage of stress as a result of a conflict can cause the individual in recovery to have the urge to drink or use to escape the situation — especially if this was their coping method for conflicts before recovery. Instead, they may want to seek professional help from a family therapist after the holiday season to help resolve the issues and move forward in their relationship with their family.
Disruption in schedules, time demands: Trying to keep up with buying gifts for everyone and visiting friends and family can seriously disrupt an individual in recovery’s schedule. Busy and always on the go, an individual in recovery’s self-care can easily become compromised. They might stop eating healthy, exercising, meditating, or doing anything else that helps to keep them balanced and healthy. They might even begin to skip their sobriety meetings, making them extremely susceptible to relapse.
People in recovery must always remember that no matter what time of the year it is, they must make their sobriety a priority. The best thing for them to do is to plan for the holiday season ahead of time and use the stress management techniques that have been working for them all year long. Some techniques they might want to use are mindfulness based ones, physical exercises, support network, and sober events that will help keep the holidays a fun and festive time of the year.