Drug and alcohol addictions are always challenging for individuals and their families. The holiday season tends to be stressful for many individuals and their families. Combine the two, and increased holiday stressed along with active addiction – or even early recovery from drug or alcohol addiction – and it makes for an especially difficult time.
Arming yourself with education and awareness on the issues of addiction at the holidays can combat many issues – before they become bigger problems.
What Makes Thanksgiving & The Holiday Season So Difficult For People In Active Addiction or Early Recovery?
Regardless of any addiction issues – the holidays are a stressful time for almost everyone. Between gift-giving and finances, travel, emerging and ongoing family quarrels and stresses – we all try to find ways to cope with the added anxieties of the season. However, these staple issues of family, finances, and feuds are often problems that lie at the root of addiction for many people – and often the very struggles that drove many individuals to use in the first place.
Without confronting family issues before the holiday season, there’s a potential for major stress around the dinner table. Stress often allows old issues to resurface. On the other hand, those without close family ties or relationships can feel isolated around this time of year – powering feelings of shame, guilt – even boredom, which can cycle back to addiction and addictive behaviors.
Whatever your particular situation maybe this year, know that you aren’t alone.
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How Can Someone In Active Addiction or Early Recovery React When Thanksgiving Makes Staying Sober Difficult?
For those in active addiction or early recovery, Thanksgiving and the holidays may increase or ignite feelings of shame or depression.
It’s easy to recall those “perfect” Thanksgiving photos or images on TV with the smiling, the happy family gathered around a full table, the golden-brown turkey, aprons, napkins folded to perfection, no apparent problems… It’s easy to make anyone wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I have that? This is supposed to be a happy time, but why am I not happy?”
The truth is – it’s OKAY to have these feelings; it’s okay to feel sad or angry, even at the holidays. The key is to accept that these feelings can arise, but that you know how to deal with them in a healthy way.
If certain people in your family are too hurtful to be around during family holiday gatherings – you don’t have to attend. Breaking a family tradition for your own health, peace, and recovery may be difficult, but it’s better than the alternative.
Whether it’s people within your church, recovery group, or even just a few close friends, spend Thanksgiving and the holidays with those who support you in your recovery. If those aren’t options either – you may even want to spend the day by yourself, trying new recipes or a new tradition of volunteering at a local rescue mission.
How Can Someone In Early Recovery Survive The Holidays?
We don’t recommend “winging it” or “going with the flow.” In fact, being prepared is one of the most important steps you can take. You’re probably aware of potential issues that might arise within your own family circle – making preparations a little easier.
If you know your family still is holding resentment or grudges, it’s often best to show your growth and changes through your actions, rather than your words. If you know they’ll be asking uncomfortable questions, think about what kind of appropriate answers you may want to respond with. Know that you aren’t obligated to discuss your recovery, your treatment, your meetings, or anything about your health if you are uncomfortable with it, or simply want to keep it personal. Being prepared may mean rehearsing answers, or practicing your role with a close friend or family member ahead of time.
If you’re going to spend the holiday alone, make a to-do list with specific activities or plans for healthy events. Be prepared to commit to those plans, even if they’re a little outside of your comfort zone. After all, creating a new and healthy tradition of having a new and healthy experience is better than allowing yourself to slide back into old and destructive patterns of behavior.
Despite all of the rush around the holiday season, Thanksgiving is a great time to take a step back and evaluate where you are, and how far you’ve come – and where you want to go. Be prepared for the tough questions and the difficult feelings, and know what your goals are a lifetime change – not those that only have to do with the season.