How To Manage The Holidays

December 15, 2014

AAP-Blog-Lights

The ideal holiday is a time for celebration and being together. For many of us, especially those suffering from substance abuse and/or mental illness, most commonly depression, it can be a stressful time. After all, very few families are the image of perfection that we yearn for. If this time of year elicits bad memories, or if holidays are a clear reminder of dysfunction in the family, substance abuse and or relapse can often occur.

Individuals in recovery and their families can work together to create an environment conducive to sobriety and enjoyment during the holidays. While it’s not easy to break any pattern, this is particularly true of an emotionally charged situation.

But How Do We Move Toward Reconciliation?

First, as with any structured aftercare program, families have the ability to provide a supportive environment that is free of judgment. This can be exceptionally difficult, because holidays can remind loved ones of the pain that the individual caused when they were abusing substances. Understanding that forgiveness is a powerful tool and knowing that the individual has taken the hardest step – seeking treatment – can be helpful. Creating a day, week or month where support and love is unconditional can lead to more of these days throughout the year

Those recovering from addiction should also be aware of the potential stressors that may arise during a family gathering. At many a holiday table, there’s no shortage of comments that can illicit frustration and hard feelings. Getting a good night’s sleep before the holiday celebration as well as eating well and exercising regularly can eliminate or reduce background stress and possibly help diffuse any issues that arise.

And then there is of course celebration held at someone else’s home. Often times, this will include alcoholic drinks that can be very tempting. This is where behavioral therapy and relapse prevention techniques learned in recovery should be revisited. To get to that point, the recovering addict must honestly evaluate their circumstance, realizing that it only takes one drink to fall back into the ravages of addiction – and to be honest with those around them if they become uncomfortable with the situation. There’s no shame in removing oneself from a difficult situation if it means maintaining sobriety.

Finally, but certainly as important as the above, is to be among people who either understand substance abuse or are also recovering from the same disease and are at a similar point in their recovery. Being surrounded by those that can understand and see relapse triggers, can help remove the recovering addict from a harmful situation and support them when needed most.

A relaxing holiday period can create fond memories that assist in long-term sobriety. The bottom line is that an honest evaluation of oneself and one’s situation can maintain sobriety and allow the recovering addict and their family to enjoy the holidays to their fullest.

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