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How to Deal with Addiction and Holidays

The holidays can be a challenging time to deal with addiction. If you are in early recovery or recently completed a residential rehab program, you could feel emotionally “raw” and particularly vulnerable. Often, rehab can open painful wounds that make you feel more sensitive as you process your emotions and learn coping skills. The holidays can put several triggers in front of you at once, which can be overwhelming and lead to relapse if you aren’t prepared to deal with addiction and holidays.

Why are the Holidays Difficult for People in Recovery?

The holidays can be stressful, yet those in recovery can experience more difficulty than others. You might feel alone during the holiday if you still need to mend relationships disrupted by your addiction. You might feel misunderstood around family members who should be supportive of you.

For some, recovery can be an alienating experience. You could feel alone in a crowded room, or you could have nowhere to celebrate the holiday. You might feel like the holidays will be too triggering for you. Choosing to steer clear of holiday gatherings might make sense, but you might feel guilt or remorse on the day of.

There’s another danger of holidays for those in recovery. You might have used drugs or alcohol to ride out good feelings. Celebrations and holiday parties could be triggering for you because you remember that feeling. You might even try to bargain with yourself, like, “Well, it’s a special time of year, and I deserve to feel good. I’ll just have a drink to celebrate.” Just one drink or one slip could spiral downward to rock bottom.

What are Common Relapse Triggers During the Holidays?

Substance use disorders are chronic diseases prone to relapses. You might struggle with triggers and pick up unhealthy habits again. While many relapse triggers are common, you usually don’t deal with all of them at once like you might during the holidays.

Remember that relapse doesn’t mean you failed; it means you need to revamp your treatment or try new things. Understanding your triggers is crucial to relapse prevention when facing a triggering event.

Some of the following are common relapse triggers that seem to become magnified over the holiday season include:

  • Loneliness can worsen if you have no one to spend time with during the holidays.
  • You might be around other people drinking or using drugs during holiday parties.
  • Returning to your childhood home could trigger you if you’ve had a traumatic childhood or have strained family relationships.
  • You might associate drinking or drug use with celebrations, and the holiday season is all about celebrating.
  • Explaining your recovery to others can cause you to feel negative emotions, like shame or guilt.

Managing these triggers can be challenging. You might also deal with underlying mental health issues like depression and anxiety during the holidays more than at other times of the year.

How to Deal With Relapse Triggers, Depression, and Anxiety

Keeping a few tips in mind can help you get through the holiday season without relapsing. You also need to consider the holidays coinciding with the low light and colder weather during the winter months, resulting in seasonal affective disorder. 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that “usually starts in the late fall and early winter and goes away during the spring and summer.” You could be vulnerable to relapse due to SAD or the anxious feelings accompanying social gatherings.

The following tips can help you manage your symptoms this year to deal with addiction and the holidays:

  • Set boundaries and limits:
    • It is okay if you cannot attend every holiday invitation that comes your way.
    • You can also leave places early, set time limits, or take breaks by volunteering to help the hosts.
    • Decide your comfort level about discussing your recovery before you are around people who might ask about it.
  • Take time for self-care:
    • You can get stressed from traveling, shopping, or planning gatherings that you forget your own needs.
    • Set aside time for yourself to do something that will make you happy, both on the holiday itself and leading up to it.
    • You can keep it simple, like taking a short walk, doing a quick workout, or listening to your favorite music while traveling.
  • Keep yourself busy:
    • Find something meaningful to spend time on during the holiday season.
    • You might want to consider volunteering if you don’t have others to spend time with or need to avoid triggering situations.
    • Attend a support group meeting, as many others deal with similar triggers during the holidays.

Treatment Options During the Holidays

Even leading up to the holidays can cause stress and anxiety to build up. You might feel triggered just anticipating going to gatherings and parties. You could also start to feel alienated if you see others making plans when you don’t have anywhere to go. There is a general sense of celebration in the air that can be isolating when alone.

You can get out ahead of this by attending more peer support groups, outpatient therapy, or going back to rehab if you relapse during the holidays. 

Addiction Treatment in Nashville

The holidays can be difficult for many during recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Brentwood Springs Detox of Nashville, TN, is here for you, even during the holiday season. We realize that this time of year can be challenging for you or your loved one. Call us today or reach out to our admissions page to learn more.

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24/7 Help Is Standing By, Call Us Now.