The holiday season can be hard for individuals trying to avoid holiday triggers and relapse. There are many reasons the holidays can be challenging to navigate in recovery. Unfortunately, it’s not the “most wonderful time of the year” for everyone.
Individuals new to recovery may face more difficulties coping with their first holiday season while sober. Many triggers increase the risk of relapse. Opportunities for relapse may seem endless, but do not let the risk consume you. You can find ways to enjoy this time of year while successfully maintaining your newfound recovery.
Why Are the Holidays Hard?
Many people experience turmoil during this time of cheer. You may struggle with uncomfortable family relationships or unhappy home lives. The stress of spending money during the holidays could get to you. Additionally, the pressure of maintaining sobriety makes the season more daunting in recovery. In addition to all of these factors, you must also navigate new holiday triggers and avoid relapse.
Common Holiday Triggers
Risks for relapse may be higher during the holidays. However, recognizing possible triggers and possessing efficient coping techniques can help people avoid relapsing. Since many people struggle with recovery during the holidays, we know of common triggers to look out for.
Alcohol-Filled Holiday Parties
The first common holiday trigger to watch out for is an increased presence of alcohol. ‘Tis the season for holiday parties. When was the last time you heard of a holiday party with no alcohol present? Drinking is a socially accepted vice. Anytime people gather and celebrate, alcohol is usually involved. That makes these cheerful gatherings hard if you’re struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Additionally, it creates a risk of addiction transference if you previously used other substances.
Depending on family and friend dynamics, you may be able to avoid the presence of alcohol. If you just left treatment, you will still be new to recovery. Your family and friends may recognize this and decide that there will be no alcohol at the holiday party this year. Yes, you must learn to cope with the presence of alcohol at some point, but it may help you to avoid this trigger so early in recovery.
Handling Family During the Holidays
As mentioned, family is another common holiday trigger that you must prepare for. No one can drive you as crazy as a family can. Some families are great and will do all they can to make a recovery transition as smooth as possible. However, other families come with trauma and tense relationships. The added stress of dealing with that can be triggering. Given your relationship with your family, you may know ahead of time which scenario to prepare for.
Family stress does not necessarily mean you must avoid everyone during the holidays. Isolation can be even more dangerous. It does, however, mean you must set boundaries and be vigilant in identifying triggers. Additionally, resources and effective coping skills will help you manage the stress of your family.
Other Holiday Triggers You May Not Think Of
One holiday trigger some people may fail to think of is the lack of structure. Having structure and routine is crucial to individuals in recovery. During the holidays, people often take time off, abandon daily exercise routines, or forgo other daily disciplines. Abrupt changes to schedules and routines can increase the risk of relapse. It’s crucial to continue attending therapy and weekly support group meetings.
An additional holiday trigger that people overlook is seasonal depression. If you have co-occurring addiction and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it may feel more tempting to relapse. Substances may have been your way of self-medicating the symptoms in the past. You need to make sure you’re using aftercare resources for your mental health.
Avoiding Holiday Triggers
You can focus on preparation and reinforcement to make it through the holidays and maintain sobriety.
Preparing for the Holidays
One way to avoid holiday triggers is to prepare for them before leaving treatment. For example, you can take advantage of case management services. Moreover, relapse prevention can help you prepare for obstacles and set goals for your recovery. If you’re concerned about relapsing during the holidays, you can ask for help planning for your first holiday season post-treatment.
In addition to planning, you should also research support group meetings in your areas. Support groups are a great way to handle the pressure of holiday triggers. When returning to your family home for the season, you can look up what support group meetings are in the area. It’s smart to find one in case the pressure becomes too much. Chances are others will also be looking for a little extra support during the holiday season too.
When In Doubt, Bring Reinforcements
Additionally, you may consider bringing a friend or an accountability buddy to events this holiday season. That individual should be a trusted member of your support network. They should be capable of helping you cope with triggers and avoid relapse.
Even better, you can consider hosting a few holiday events of your own. You can give back to your recovery community by hosting a sober holiday gathering. It provides people with a safe and sober space to celebrate the holidays, create bonds, and establish new traditions.
Maintaining recovery throughout the holidays is very much possible. Individuals struggling with addiction and not yet in recovery should consider treatment today.
Have you recently left an addiction treatment program and are feeling anxious about your first holiday season in recovery? If so, know that you are not alone. Many people struggle with maintaining their sobriety during the holiday season. Despite the risk of relapse, maintaining recovery is very much possible. It may just take a little extra effort. Excel Treatment Center can provide you with extra sobriety support throughout the holidays. Our groups, therapies, and support network can offer you peace of mind. You’ll have people to lean on as you navigate and cope with common holiday triggers. When you need a helping hand, call Excel Treatment Center at (877) 331-4114.