The Holiday season is a time for eating, drinking, and merriment. The holiday season can be filled with stressful times, but also you can have a wonderful time. But what do when if you’re a recovering substance abuse and feel like you are at risk of relapse? If you’re having trouble navigating through the busy cocktail party filled with alcoholic drinks during holiday gatherings, here are some tips to help you out.
Many people use substances during the holiday season because they feel stressed out, but there are better ways to cope than abusing drugs or alcohol.
Loneliness can be an issue for some people who don’t have close family ties. Spending time with extended family and immediate family and family gatherings can be emotionally draining and may pose some potential triggers or relapse triggers. This is known as the “holiday blues.”
You don’t need alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs to make your holidays merry, but you DO need this go-to resource for staying sober during the season!
Have a plan to avoid common relapse triggers during holiday celebrations
a person suffering from alcohol addiction must wake up every morning thinking about staying sober that day. Once you’ve established an actionable plan for achieving your goals, remain committed to following through with that plan every single day. Make sure you have a sober friend that you can rely on to help you get through risky social situations. Also, find a way to avoid additional stress. The holidays are filled with unnecessary holiday stress such as financial stress, family gatherings, or even interactions with family, which can be a huge trigger for some people.
Take time to evaluate how stressful each situation would be to avoid relapse during the season
Rank each scenario according to its level of risk for you to avoid a relapse during the season. During early recovery from addiction, spend most of your time in lower-risk environments (such as staying home with a couple)) and avoid higher-risk ones (like going out to a party where alcohol will be served). If you’re further into recovery and will likely find yourself at a moderate-to-high risk event like a party with alcohol available, use your relapse prevention tools before going out. If you want to get out of an uncomfortable situation, drive yourself so that you can leave when you want. Planning ahead will help prevent relapse during the season.
Bring your snacks and drinks.
Bring along something you like to eat or drink. If you want to avoid drinking alcohol during an event, consider bringing a nonalcoholic substitute, like a flavored, sparkling drink.
Know your triggers
Relapse prevention and management techniques include knowing one’s triggers for relapsing and managing these triggers effectively. The most common triggers correspond to the acronym HALT — when you feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Check with yourself emotionally to see if you are feeling any of the above and if so, try to fix it by eating, getting proper sleep, and spending time around friends.
Make sure you’re eating.
When low blood sugar hits, you might feel anxious or irritated. It can be challenging for people who struggle with impulse control to resist temptation when they’re feeling hungry. Eat a healthy meal or snack at least every three hours, if not sooner.
Control your stress
Many people use drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin to help them deal with their stress and get them through tough times. When stressed, take some time out for yourself by doing something relaxing like meditation. Don’t let yourself think about using harmful substances again.
Just because you think something doesn’t necessarily mean you have to act upon it. Try exercising regularly — even if walking briskly for 30 minutes three times per week. It may help curb cravings.
Find a way to distract yourself.
If you want to enjoy yourself without feeling like you need to hide something from others:
- Bring someone else along for support.
- Try striking up conversations with people who are at the party they may not know.
- Ask the party host if there is anything you can do to help them out.
They will be very grateful and give you small tasks to keep you busy and occupied.
Rehearse what you will say if somebody offers you a substance such as alcohol
To avoid explaining why you’ve decided to stop drinking alcohol, create a script that you can give out when someone asks if you would like something to drink. The script can be as simple as “I can drink tonight because I’m driving.” Having a script can help you avoid a relapse during the season.
Learn how to get through your cravings
The craving usually lasts about 20 minutes, but some people say they can feel longer. If you’re able to resist your cravings until then, they should subside. If you’re feeling stressed out, move somewhere else for a few minutes, take some time to relax. When you’re feeling an impulse to act on your triggers and cravings, talk yourself out of doing so by thinking through why you want to take action now versus later. For example, “I could get drunk tonight, but tomorrow morning when I wake up, I’ll feel awful.” Or, “If I go ahead and order a beer right now, then maybe I won’t be able to resist ordering another after dinner.
Create a support system
Even if you belong to an online support community, take some time off from social media for the holiday season, so you don’t get distracted by everyone else’s posts. Avoiding social media can help prevent relapse during the season. If you need help locating a support group, the National Council on Addiction provides a list of resources for you to use. Stay connected with supportive friends and family members, and people you’ve met through your treatment experience, and know that even though they might be celebrating without you this year, their lives won’t go back to normal until you’re ready.