While there is a lot of joy to be had during the holiday season, it’s also one of the most stressful times of the year. Whether you’re welcoming family in for Christmas, preparing a holiday feast for a large group or struggling to pull together gifts at the last minute, the holiday season can easily become more chaotic than cheerful.
The stress that surrounds the season of giving makes this time of year particularly difficult for those living in addiction recovery, especially for those who are newly sober. All of the anxiety that the holidays generate can often lead to relapse for those living in sobriety. Other times, the fear of relapse can be so great that it prevents those in recovery from participating in any festive activities during the holidays.
Knowing the top five stressors that can lead to relapse is the first step to preventing a relapse and spending the holiday season in sobriety.
Holiday Stressors That Lead To Relapse
The holiday season inevitably means that families will spend more time together. However, when your family doesn’t have a perfect relationship (which most don’t) and you’re living in recovery, trying to maintain your inner peace can be difficult. There’s also a chance that alcohol could be served at family parties- which isn’t beneficial for maintaining sobriety.
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Additionally, old wounds may resurface once family members start drinking. As intoxication levels rise, a family member may start to feel more inclined to bring up your past mistakes. This will only serve to increase conflict among family members and worst of all might give you the urge to use or drink again in order to escape.
When this happens, it’s best to remove yourself from the situation. Not everyone in your family will support your recovery, but that doesn’t mean you have to put yourself in a bad situation for the sake of tradition. If you feel like your family is going to cause you too much stress this holiday season, avoid them all together and start your own tradition.
Addiction can cause a huge financial burden due to job loss and money spent on drugs or alcohol. With this in mind, those newly in recovery generally don’t have much money to spend on things other than the essentials as they get back on their feet.
Unfortunately, the holidays make us feel obligated to buy gifts for people that we otherwise wouldn’t. Managing everyday bills and old debts along with an ever-growing list of gifts to buy can be stressful for anyone, but especially for those in recovery.
This holiday season, avoid making any financial promises that you can’t fulfill- like going in on a gift you can’t afford for your mom with the siblings, or putting an expensive gift on a credit card. Instead, try making your gifts or giving yourself a very specific spending limit. When the holidays are over and you’re debt free, you’ll be happy you stuck to your goals.
During the holiday season, the amount of parties seems to increase exponentially. However, parties usually involve alcohol and just knowing this can be enough to make those in recovery feel stressed. Being around alcohol, people that are drunk, or the party atmosphere are all enough to trigger a relapse- especially if you’re newly sober or already struggling with recovery during the holidays.
If you’re stressed about upcoming holidays parties, start preparing ahead of time. Practice what you’re going to say when a colleague asks if you want a drink, offer to bring some non-alcoholic beverages to the gathering and make an exit plan if things get too stressful or you start to feel an urge to drink.
Sometimes, it’s best to avoid these parties altogether. If that’s the case for you this year, that’s okay. The holidays and the holiday parties come around every year, so you’ll have another chance to participate when you’re ready.
Shift In Daily Routine
The holidays are an incredibly busy time of year. People get time off of work, travel to see their families, spend time preparing for the holidays, and often don’t adhere to their typical routines during the holiday season. However, this dramatic shift in daily routine can be stressful for those living in recovery.
When you’re not maintaining your sleep schedule, attending meetings regularly, engaging in an exercise routine and working on your recovery program daily, your life can start to feel out of control and can easily lead to relapse.
In recovery, maintaining a positive and healthy routine is critical for success. While there are many important events that take place during the holidays, make sure your recovery remains your top priority.
Feelings Of Loneliness And Depression
While family and friends play an important role in the lives of many, not everyone living in recovery has the support of their loved ones once they’re clean and sober. Not having loved ones to spend the holidays with can feel particularly painful and may make all the work you’ve put into your life in recovery feel worthless- but that’s not true.
Rebuilding healthy relationships with family members after addiction takes time and patience. The hurt that you may have caused them during active addiction won’t go away just because it’s the holiday season, but you can start healing that pain by showing your family and friends how dedicated you are to your recovery.
The best thing you can do to avoid a relapse is understanding what might cause you to relapse in the first place. While you may identify with some of the stressors above, take some time to identify your personal triggers and create a plan to help you avoid or handle them without relapsing this holiday season. As the festive season passes by, don’t let the holidays take your sobriety with them.