The holidays bring us tremendous joy, but they can be a very trying time for many people recovering from addiction. The sheer indulgence many of us partake in during the holidays is impressive in itself, but can lead to a loss of control in other areas. Scarfing down 14 buns, several turkey legs and a partridge in a pear tree might sound good, and probably isn’t going to land us back in rehab for drinking or drug use, but it can get out of hand with a few of the other party favours often associated with the holidays. Wine anyone? A sherry perhaps? Two you say? Done!
As we understand the struggle many of us go through during the holidays when we’re in “recovery mode”, we’d like to provide you three awesome tips to manage stress, avoid relapse and maintain your mental well-being throughout thanksgiving and beyond:
Tip #1: You can run out of “inner strength” or willpower
Willpower is actually a finite resource. It’s similar to a muscle that you can wear out. This means that during the holidays, when you have so many increased temptations and decisions, you need to simplify your decision-making. Have someone else help you handle the problems. Even consider setting up simple tasks in advance such as choosing a healthy breakfast the night before.
In remembering the finiteness of your own willpower, you should also avoid situations where your addiction may be present. The holidays are especially difficult for recovering alcoholics, as many holiday parties often include all kinds of alcoholic beverages and specials. Don’t go to those parties if you can help it. And if you know that drugs are going to be present, absolutely don’t go. Cops crack down even harder during the holiday season because they know the tendencies.
Throw Stigma Out the Window. Find Someone to Share With
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume you can handle it on your own. Even if you have managed your addiction beautifully throughout most of the year, the holiday season brings up a number of challenges that you won’t be prepared to handle. More important, having to deal with these things on your own makes it much harder to keep yourself strong.
Friends and family can be helpful during this time, but remember that they aren’t necessarily equipped for this. They could unintentionally enable you, or they might send you into a guilt spiral, which will make your breaking down even more likely. It’s possible for people to have multiple symptoms as well as multiple underlying causes, commonly known as dual diagnosis. All of these must be identified and treated to make sure that the relief provided is as complete as possible. Visiting with a professional counselor or enrolling in an addiction program in can help you get an objective perspective, tailored advice, and a stronger support network.
Have an Exit Strategy
There is no way to account for everything, and despite our best efforts, sh*t happens. A difficult or nosy relative could spell disaster at any dinner table, and someone pouring themselves an extra tall glass of the bubbly could just trigger you. While we can prepare for many things in life, every single trigger moment is an impossible preparation task. We need to be realistic about these things, and having a solid plan to get out the door if we need to is a great option. Do you have to sneak out between dinner and dessert? No. Do you make a silly excuse that no one will believe? Lie maybe? Probably not the best idea. Letting a trusted friend or family member know about your situation before you get to a thanksgiving celebration that you may have to duck out early if things get a little too much will be your best bet. That way, when you excuse yourself from the gathering, others have your back and can fend off uncomfortable questions or objections.
Parting Words and a Happy Thanksgiving From Searidge
Despite the struggles many recovering addicts experience during the holidays, it can be as meaningful a time a year as it was when you were growing up. Family, friends and great food. Sometimes we psych ourselves out and focus too much on what could happen and forget that we have lives to live. There’s no shame in feeling apprehensive or nervous, and if you’re at a time in your life where you truly believe that holiday celebrations are too much, there is nothing wrong with opting out. Your health and wellbeing is more important than obligations to anyone. That being said, if you want to go and be with family this thanksgiving, work towards it. Plan it out, talk to your family, make arrangements that work for you and everyone else, too. After all, you didn’t bust your butt in recovery to miss out on life, you did it to regain what you’d lost due to alcohol and drugs.
If the holidays have you stressed, and you need support, feel free to contact Searidge Foundation today. We’re always here to help.