Ways for Addicts to Avoid Holiday-Induced Stress and Relapses

Want to avoid the stress of holidays during recovery?


holiday stress


Twinkling lights, Christmas music, and family celebrations are some of the things that make the holidays wonderful for many people.  This busy time can also bring with it a lot of stress, especially for recovering addicts.


Crowded parties and family get-togethers can abound with triggers for temptation to relapse.  Conversely, lack of close family and friends during the holidays can cause extreme loneliness, which can also be another trigger.


Having a plan to accommodate these situations can help you make it through the holidays without jeopardizing your sobriety.


Start Your Day with a Plan

Wake up every day and tell yourself how good it feels to be sober and in charge of your life.  Write it on a chalkboard or stick a note on your mirror for positive reinforcement.


Maintain a recovery routine as much as possible during the busy holidays.  Get good rest, eat healthy, and get in some exercise whenever possible.  Keeping your body happy will  keep blood sugars level, curb irritability, and keep impulses in check.


Develop a plan for the day’s events.  Know your triggers and assess possible scenarios for which you might need ideas to avoid potential stressors.  Should you bring along a friend who doesn’t indulge in drugs or alcohol to help you avoid cravings?


Remember to be realistic in your expectations and not set yourself up for disappointment.  Being sober doesn’t always mean life will be perfect.  Others still have their issues, so just be sure to know that you can only take control yourself.


Holiday Parties

Drive yourself to holiday events so that you will have an easy way to leave whenever you need to.  If you know some situations or people might set off your triggers, try to arrive early and have the option to leave earlier.  Also, limit time you spend with people that do not respect your boundaries or elicit temptation.


Food and drinks at holiday parties have a higher tendency to involve alcohol.  If you’re a recovering alcoholic, being handed drinks or desserts with alcohol in them could trigger relapse.  Serve yourself or bring your own snacks and drinks to have in hand to avoid the possibility of being handed things you might have to decline.


Many times friends and family like to just sit around talking and drinking.  Board games, holiday movies, museums, or playing outside in the snow might be better options to suggest.  Keeping yourself active will curb cravings and alleviate stress.


Be prepared for awkward questions from relatives regarding your recovery if they know.  You can have some simple responses planned and not feel the need to go into long explanations.  Worst case scenario- just change the subject.


What to Do to Handle Stress and Temptations

Many times substance abuse is a coping mechanism for stress, so when things are getting to you take a break to walk away and breathe.  Rid your head of thoughts of substance abuse and try to focus on all the progress you’ve made so far.  Redirect your thoughts to the good in your life, instead of worrying about relapsing.


Don’t underestimate the power of a support system.  Have the number of a trusted friend or sponsor handy when you need to talk or hear a positive voice.  Sometimes planning on attending a few extra AA or NA meetings can get you through the holidays.  Check out where other meetings are held if traveling out of town so you can hit one up before or after potentially stressful events.


Pay it Forward

Focusing on others is another way to redirect your issues into a positive direction.  Reach out to newcomers, chaperone other recovering addicts to their events, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or spend time with an older neighbor.  These tasks can enrich your life as much as it will enrich theirs.  Your confidence will grow and relapses will be a thing of the past.  If you actively pursue a positive, fulfilling life,  you can make it through the holiday season and enjoy a lasting sobriety.


Guest post by Jackie Cortez

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