Holidays and Substance Use Disorder
While the holidays are a time filled with relaxation, family, and fun, it can also be very triggering to those with substance use disorder. It can bring up feelings of grief, trauma, loneliness, and much more. Especially this year with the COVID-19 pandemic still lurking, the holidays can be difficult for many to manage. Keep reading to find out more about the holidays and substance use disorder, how to prepare, and how to help make the holidays a little better this year.
Holidays and Substance Use Disorder: Signs to Look For
Halloween is the official kick-off of the holiday season, and once they are in full swing, it is important to keep your mental health and behavior in check before it leads to a relapse. Some of the important things to look out for include having no holiday cheer at all, isolation, and getting too confident in your recovery. In addition, if you notice any of these signs in one of your friends or family members, it would be the perfect time to spark up a conversation to check in with them on their mental health and let them know you are there for them.
No Holiday Cheer
With the uneasiness that 2020 has presented so far, it would not be unusual for many people to not have much holiday cheer this year. This is especially true if you have decided not to get together with your family or if this year has been an especially difficult one and you’re not much in the mood to celebrate. However, it is important to recognize if your holiday cheer is dangerously low or entirely gone.
By not decorating for the holidays, refusing to participate in activities, or not acknowledging that the holidays are happening, you are setting yourself up for a very difficult Hanukkah or Christmas experience. This can make it even harder to see others having a great time with their loved ones. All of this can lead down the path of depression, and eventually, relapse or overdose.
It’s expected that this year, you may not be getting together with your family or loved ones due to the pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean you need to completely isolate yourself. Loneliness is one of the most common reasons for relapse. Making sure you avoid loneliness is extremely important, and one of the first signs of loneliness is isolation.
Signs of isolation include:
- Not answering phone calls or texts from loved ones
- Refusing to attend holiday gatherings
- Choosing not to participate in a gift exchange
- Being alone for too long
Getting Too Confident
If you are in recovery, especially if you are new to recovery this year, you may begin to feel a sense of confidence in your sobriety. You’ve taken on challenges all year and have been able to see the other side of them sober, and you may feel like the holidays aren’t anything to worry about. This can lead you to stop going to meetings as much, not checking in with your sober support, and feeling like you’ve already got it all figured out.
It might sound backward, but, by becoming too confident in your sobriety you are setting yourself up for relapse. By neglecting to do all of the things that have kept you sober so far, you are opening up the door to using again. You may start feeling confident enough that one beer won’t hurt you or one glass of champagne at midnight won’t hurt you. Keep up with your regular routine at all times, but especially during the holidays, to ensure you don’t have a slip-up.
COVID-19 and the Holidays
This year, it is very likely — and, in some cases, expected — that you won’t be getting together with your family this year for the holidays as you usually do due to the pandemic. Normal holiday traditions that you look forward to will have to be put on hold until next year, and this can leave you feeling pretty upset. Feeling this way is totally normal, but making sure you have a plan in place to not let it take you down a dark path is of utmost importance.
How to Start Preparing Now
Preparation is vital when it comes to the holidays, especially if you aren’t getting together with your loved ones. Some ways you can prepare for the holidays this year include:
- Know where and when your meetings are. Plan to be at some meetings during the holidays, even if it means going to one on Christmas Day. This will give you something to look forward to and a reason to stay sober.
- Practice self-care. If you already know the holidays are going to be stressful this year, plan out some self-care. Take a short weekend trip. Have a spa day. Do something to treat yourself that you can look forward to after the holidays are over.
- Talk to your family. If your family is not planning on gathering this year, step up to plan something different this year. Schedule Zoom calls, create fun things to give eachother, or find a way to do your regular traditions virtually.
About Seasons in Malibu
If the holidays do end up being more than you can bear this year, we are here for you. People in early recovery are especially vulnerable to relapse triggers, not all of which are obvious or can be anticipated. Common triggers include social situations in which drugs or alcohol are available, encounters with certain friends and family members, and stressful situations. Over-confidence and/or complacency after a period of sobriety can lead a person to abandon their relapse prevention plan—a significant risk for relapse. Research and anecdotal evidence show that people who continue to remain actively involved in the recovery community have a greater likelihood of maintaining their sober lifestyle.
Treatment at Seasons in Malibu is systemic, integrative and client-centered. Our philosophy is grounded in the understanding that in order for the client to heal, the entire system needs the opportunity to heal along with them.
The pressure to “fix” the client can become overwhelming and unrealistic if we do not examine the underlying issues, dynamics, and environmental influences that might be contributing to substance abuse or ongoing mental health issues. Whenever practical, we try to include close loved ones in sessions and in the entire process of recovering from addiction and/or addressing mental health issues.
For more information, visit seasonsmalibu.com