The holidays are a time of celebration, nostalgia and family traditions. However, these same festivities can trigger feelings of loss or sadness for some people, and it can be a time of increased risk for substance use, even if you’ve been sobered for some time. Substance use disorders impact about 20 million people in the United States. And more than half of these individuals live with one or more mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It can be hard to know how to cope with your addiction during all the festivities and stress that come with this time of year. The good news is that there are ways you can do this without feeling overwhelmed. These five tips will help you stay on track with your recovery plan and maintain your sobriety throughout this time of year.
If you're in recovery from a substance use disorder, chances are you're getting some form of treatment. You must take the time to review your treatment plan as holiday party invitations are sent and home visits are organized. Ensure that your treatment plan includes steps for handling difficult situations like holiday parties, family gatherings or other celebrations where alcohol or drugs are present.
Refer to your plan as often as necessary, and be proactive about finding out what steps you should take to maintain sobriety. Keep in mind that it's not always easy to resist temptation, but there are ways to do so without feeling overwhelmed. For example, distraction is an effective way of coping with urges. Try doing something else when you feel a craving coming on—even just for a few minutes—until it passes.
It may be tempting to indulge in substances, particularly if you're feeling lonely. However, it's important to set personal boundaries. It might help if you don't go partying with friends or family members who might drink or use drugs. You can also plan and avoid any triggers that might make you want to break your sobriety. If your resistance weakens with elevated stress, loneliness or other temptations, immediately reach out for support from a friend or relative who doesn't drink or use drugs or someone you trust who, at least, respects your choice of sober living.
We all have traditions we do every year because it's what we're used to. But while you are in recovery, you’re also looking for ways to stay sober and happy throughout the holidays. And that means finding new traditions, so you don't feel like you're alone or missing out on anything. It might seem daunting at first, but making new traditions is a great way to ward off old, unhealthy habits and find new ways to enjoy your time with family and friends.
The best thing about creating new traditions is that they don't have to be anything fancy or complicated. You can make a tradition of going for a walk or reading a book together before bedtime every night instead of drinking alcohol, for example. It will help you relax and unwind after a long day, and it will also create memories as you spend quality time with your loved ones—no matter their addiction status.
Seek out social support.
It can be hard to find people who are supportive of your sobriety. However, you don't have to go at it alone. If you're feeling down or have cravings, reach out to a family member, friend or sponsor. They might not be the person who will know what to say at this moment, but they will still offer support and care while listening to your struggles. Alternatively, if you don't feel comfortable reaching out to someone you know personally, there are online communities where you can share your thoughts anonymously with others.
One of the most challenging things about the holidays is feeling lonely. Whether you're spending time with your family or by yourself, you might feel a sense of isolation. The good news is that there are many ways to cope with loneliness. For example, find a creative project that will keep your mind occupied and help you get excited about the new year ahead.
If you're feeling incredibly lonely this time of year, try finding a creative outlet to brighten up your days. These inventive means of release and escape from loneliness could be anything from knitting to re-watching a favorite Christmas movie or even making a craft to present as a gift to someone else. You can also explore other ways to be present and connected with others during this time of year, such as volunteering at a shelter or soup kitchen.
It's easy to feel neglected during the holidays. It can be hard to find time for yourself between shopping, cooking and traveling. And that neglect can lead you to turn to substances as a coping mechanism. The best way to avoid this is to take care of yourself first!
Start by setting aside time every day—even if it's just 10 minutes—to practice self-care. Your 10 minutes of attention to your needs and wants can look any way you wish. It may include meditation or yoga, reading a book, making plans with friends, exercising, a soapy bath or cooking a new dinner recipe.
Whatever you do, be sure to make your needs a priority so you can stay on track with your sobriety this season. If you haven’t begun a road to recovery, addiction experts can talk with you about possible treatment options.
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